NASHVILLE – Ben Jones wants to know how it feels to be on the best team. In the worst way.
Winning a championship is foremost on his mind as he prepares for his 11th NFL season, his seventh as the Tennessee Titans’ starting center. But that title quest predates his entry to the league as a fourth-round selection in the 2012 draft.
“I’ve been so close multiple times, whether it was from high school to college to the pros,” Jones said recently. “I have the utmost confidence that we can get it done here. I trust the coach [Mike Vrabel], and I trust the organization. And I want to win here.
“It will be that much more special to me to do it the right way and end my career in Tennessee winning a championship.”
No one can say he has not done his part to get one by now.
Among all players drafted in 2012, Jones is tied with linebacker Demario Davis for the most games played in the regular season with 160 – out of a possible 161 (Jones missed one game in 2019 due to a concussion). He has been a part of six playoff teams (two with Houston, four with Tennessee) and has logged another 10 postseason contests, twice as many as Davis.
In all, just 10 players from that draft class have at least 150 regular-season appearances to their credit. That group includes quarterback Russell Wilson and safety Bobby Wagner, who won a Super Bowl with Seattle, and defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, who won one with Philadelphia. Additionally, defensive lineman Michael Brockers and kicker Greg Zuerlein were with the Los Angeles Rams when they lost Super Bowl LIII to New England.
A rundown of the NFL players selected in the 2012 NFL Draft with the most career regular-season appearances:
Ben Jones, C, fourth round (99th overall) – 160 games
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· Demario Davis, ILB, third round (77th overall) – 160 games
Bryan Anger, P, third round (70th overall) – 159 games
Justin Bethel, DB, sixth round (177th overall) – 159 games
Russell Wilson, QB, third round (75th overall) – 158 games
Fletcher Cox, DT, first round (12th overall) – 156 games
· Michael Brockers, DT, first round (14th overall) – 154 games
· Kevin Zeitler, G, first round (27th overall) – 152 games
Bobby Wagner, S, second round (47th overall) – 151 games
· Greg Zuerlein, K, sixth round (171st overall) – 151 games
Motivated by Defeat
Jones, 32 (he’ll be 33 before the start of training camp), had the opportunity to take his title quest in any direction he wanted this offseason. However, two days before he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, he was re-signed with Tennessee for two years and $14 million, which likely will take him to the end of his career.
It was as a member of the Titans in 2019 when his most recent brush with a championship occurred. That was when Tennessee made an unlikely run to the AFC Championship, where it was lost to the eventual champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Since, the Titans have won two straight division titles but failed to get a playoff victory. They were the AFC’s No. 1 seed last season but lost 19-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round.
“Everybody handles defeats differently,” Jones said. “For me, it’s a motivation to come back to work. It’s a mindset I can use every day working out, meeting. Because until you win it all, you’ve failed short every year.
So, I’m happy to be back. I’m happy to be working.”
In that case, it’s business as usual right now.
Jones was a four-year starter at Georgia, the reigning king of college football following its victory over Alabama in the most recent College Football Playoff championship. That, however, was the first time since 1981 that program claimed a national championship. In the four years Jones played there, Georgia never finished higher than 13th in the final rankings. As a senior, he was on a team that finished first in the SEC East but was blown out 42-10 by LSU in the conference championship game.
Before Georgia, he was an All-State performer at Bibb County (Ala.) High School, which has never won a football state championship. The Choctaws have claimed 15 region titles, none during the years Jones played there.
Even though Jones has never won a championship, he is confident that he knows what it takes.
“We’re building something special here [in Tennessee],” he said. “We’ve done it over the past – I’d say – four years with Vrabel, and we don’t need just one year to go out and get talent. It’s a process. You have to trust the guys that they put in the room. You’re here for a reason.
“You don’t need just one player to win a championship. It takes a team to win a championship.”