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Jones 'excited' to focus on opponent, not rehab

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Optimism for a new season, new team and new league flipped to frustration for the Dallas Renegades on the first full practice of training camp in Houston on Jan. 6.

Landry Jones, the Renegades' quarterback and the XFL’s signature first signing, suffered a knee injury and wound up on the trainer’s table. 

It was, as Jones not-so-poetically put it at the time, “such a stupid injury.” In a non-contact drill, someone stumbled and rolled up on his leg.

In an instant, the season changed.

“Well, it sucked for a lot reasons. It sucked that it was in practice and it sucked that it was literally the first pass play of the first practice of our first training camp,” Jones said. “Then, I missed all of training camp, and I’m down in Houston, injured, away from my family, and rehabbing and not even getting to practice.”

The fact that Jones had never been seriously injured in a football game before added to the psychological challenge he was facing. That’s where his training camp roommate, running back Lance Dunbar, came to the rescue. 

“He kind of kept me off the ledge for a while,” Jones said.

Dunbar, an NFL veteran just like Jones, has seen his share of injuries. He’s been down the isolated road of rehab and recovery, and knew exactly what his teammate was experiencing.

“I just tried to be a friend and give him advice. I’ve been through something similar with knee injuries,” Dunbar said. “I tried to help him with the mindset of rehab and the process.”

Lance Dunbar helped Landry Jones, his training camp roommate, through the mental challenges of rehab.

But it was also difficult to watch Jones go through that process for the first time. On one day in particular, it was downright scary with a dash of bizarre. 

“It was tough on him, trust me," Dunbar said. "There was one morning where it was like 6 a.m., I was sleeping, and he got up for treatment and he just started screaming. I jumped out of bed wondering what was wrong, and he had actually passed out because he was in so much pain. He fell back onto his bed, started snoring, and then like five seconds later, he woke back up. I was like, ‘what is going on?’ I thought he was playing around, but he wasn’t.”

Both players look back and feel fortunate they were roommates during a tough time.

“It’s not ideal, but he was he was actually a pretty good roommate, other than he snored at night,” Jones said. 

“Nah man, he’s the snorer,” Dunbar said. “There was a couple times where I had to smack on the dresser to wake him up.”

Though it was just over a month ago, to Jones, those feel like distant memories on a comeback journey that has dragged on and on.

He pushed to try to be ready for the opener against St. Louis, and while he made a huge leap, comfort-wise, with his leg from Wednesday to Thursday last week, he was just too far behind on every level.

"I missed too much practice overall," Jones said. "I missed all of practice, I missed training camp, and I only took live reps last Thursday. That was the first time with linemen in front of me and everything. I was trying to push it, but I wasn’t ready."

The relief finally came this week when Dallas head coach Bob Stoops announced on Thursday that Jones would start at quarterback this Sunday in Los Angeles against the Wildcats. 

“I feel like it’s been really long,” Jones said. “This is my first time actually missing time and working to get back out there. I’m excited.”

Instead of worrying about a rehab schedule, he’s been focused on the number of challenges the Wildcats defense will present. It’s a welcome change, though one that comes with its own set of obstacles. 

“I think they pressure the quarterback well, and it seems like they play a lot of man-to-man and do a good job of staying close to receivers,” Jones said. “When you pressure and play man, it makes it difficult.”

But after the last five weeks, a difficult opponent is a nice problem to have.