‘Little black bag’ tells WR Jones all he needs to know
Star eschews iPads and relies on pen, paper for his preparation.
“Everybody learns differently. ...The iPads die, you have to charge them up,” Julio Jones says. “You misplace them now and then, things like that. I know where my papers are at. It’s always good to easily review it.”
By Jason Butt
For the AJC


If you’re a coach, the last thing you want Julio Jones to do is to reach into his little black bag.

In his bag are paper copies of everything he needs heading into a game. He has printouts of plays with notes written all over them. He has the opposing team’s depth chart with detailed information about the secondary’s height, weight, speed, vertical leap and arm length.

So if a coach goes over a play, makes a call or asks for an alignment that doesn’t match the notes Jones has all but memorized from those paper copies, he’ll reach into the bag to point out how wrong he is.

“If you contradict yourself as a coach, he will pull those notes out of that little black bag and show you exactly what you said wrong,” Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said. “He is very rarely wrong. He knows exactly where he wants to be. He knows where he’s supposed to be in the alignments. He knows where he should be on assignments. He knows exactly where he should be based on the call and how it was tagged and everything that’s going to happen throughout the game. So when he goes out there, he kind of views the game sort of like a quarterback.”

Most of the Falcons’ players and coaches have adapted to studying the playbook and game plan on team-issued tablets. Not Jones, who will turn 32 in February.

Although Jones is plenty young to have grown accustomed to this technological age, he grew up writing everything down with a pen and paper.

It’s a tried-and-true approach and one he hasn’t changed throughout his entire career.

“Everybody learns differently.

It’s just my era, the way I came up,” Jones said. “Just having the physical copies in my hand. The iPads die, you have to charge them up. You misplace them now and then, things like that.

I know where my papers are at.

It’s always good to easily review it. An iPad, they got so much stuff on it — OK, I gotta go here, I gotta go to ‘team,’ I gotta go ‘360.’ Now I gotta find this game.

“I just don’t want to deal with that. I just want to be able to write my notes on there and look at the paper copies. I know what’s going on throughout the week, just the mental side of the game plan.”

With a talent such as Jones, what he prefers is what the team will provide. Before the Falcons begin installing the weekly game plan, Jones’ paper printouts are delivered, detailing the approach for both the running and passing games. For Jones, this is a routine part of each week, even if the rest of the team is accessing the same information via clicking and swiping.

And when he’s finished reading over the pieces of paper, they go back into the little black bag he carries around.

“I just keep it all, go over it, make sure I put my notes over it and just be ready to go,” Jones said. “It’s very simple because I’ve been doing it for so long. I haven’t even thought about the whole process of how it goes with what I do. But they always have it available for me. I’m never looking for it.”

In 10 NFL seasons, Jones has been one of the more prolific wideouts, accruing 12,802 yards and 60 touchdowns to date. Although he’s missed three games this season because of a hamstring injury and was taken out of the majority of two others because of the ailment, he still has a shot to record his seventh consecutive 1,000- yard season.

Entering Week 13, Jones’ 677 yards puts him on pace for 985 yards by the season’s end.

Morris described Jones’ approach to the game as oldschool, as it certainly isn’t similar to most of the younger players on the team. But it’s a process that has worked wonders throughout his career.

“He’s a hard guy to understand sometimes because he’s a little different than all of us,” Morris said. “Like I always tell you guys, he’s an alien. And make no mistake about that, it goes into the mental aspect as well as the athletic aspect.”

As for the hamstring injury, which was aggravated two weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints, Jones said he will be good to go for Sunday’s rematch. Jones tweaked his hamstring in the loss to New Orleans and tried to return late in the game. But after a fourth-quarter catch on fourth down, he had to exit and was not able to play Sunday during the win against the Las Vegas Raiders.

After missing Thursday’s practice, Jones returned Friday and declared himself ready for Sunday.

It’s been a tricky injury to manage, but something he’s now confident about heading into the second installment of this year’s Falcons-Saints rivalry.

“For me, I’m so competitive that I always want to go and to keep pushing,” Jones said. “But sometimes I need to chill and get completely healthy so it doesn’t linger and I’m missing game after game after game. At this point right now, the hamstring is behind me. I’m healthy, and I’m ready to go.”