James Jones sat in his new locker room Wednesday afternoon reflecting on how he got there.
Just 24 hours prior, for the first time in his 10-year career, the wide receiver had to try out to prove his worth. He still shakes his head thinking it came to that after a season in which he caught 50 passes while leading the high powered Green Bay Packers offense in receiving yards (890) and touchdowns (eight).
"I can't believe that happened (yesterday)," he said, still shaking his head. "It was the first time I ever did anything like that since 10 years ago at the Combine. Hopefully that's all over now and I never have to do anything like that in the future. I'm here to be that same player I was last year, making a bunch of plays and scoring eight touchdowns. I want to show them that I've still got it. I just love playing football. I've still got it in my blood. It feels good to say this California boy has come home."
It all comes down to respect for the nine-year veteran, who has caught 433 passes for 5,861 yards and 51 touchdowns in 136 career games. Jones never imagined he'd have to wait until August to find a new team, but plans to reward the Chargers for having faith in him.
"Over my career, I really don't think I've gotten the respect I deserve as a player in this league. I've been unappreciated in this league a little bit. To see the reaction of the fans here in San Diego the last day; it shows that I am appreciated by them. But I am still going out there trying to earn respect. That's the name of the game. Respect. You always want to go out there and get respect from your peers and those around you. I just feel I have a lot more to prove than ever before."
There is one teammate in particular he is eager to prove his worth to.
As Jones explains, he is trading in one future Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers for another in number 17.
"I've been blessed to play with two future Hall of Famers now," he said with a smile. "It's huge for me to play with a team now with a quarterback that will be in the Hall of Fame one day. The guy knows what he is doing all the time. He's always the best player on the field. That's how you win ball games. I'm excited to get out there with him and get our connection going."
Jones believes his versatility will be a boon to the Bolts offense. The 6-1, 208-pounder played each wide receiver spot in both Green Bay and Oakland, succeeding both out wide and in the slot. Perhaps the only place you may not see him early on in his Chargers career is opposite his former Packers teammate, CB Casey Hayward, in practice.
"I'm going to stay away from him today because he is the only one in here that really knows me!" he laughed. "He knows all my little ins and outs, so I will try to stay away from him early on at least. I played with Dwight (Lowery) in college, but that was 10 years ago so he hasn't seen what I've learned."