FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — For Julio Jones, eight months away from football “feels like an eternity.”
Jones was on the practice fields for the Atlanta Falcons’ organized team activities on Tuesday, but only for conditioning work. The star wide receiver said Monday his rehabilitation is progressing well but “extra precautions” have kept him from being cleared for practice.
“I am ahead of schedule but we’re not pressing anything,” Jones said.
On Tuesday, Jones was on the field with the team only for exercises. That came only after he had extra time with a trainer for stretching. Then he worked on running and agility drills as other players went through practice.
Jones said he can’t guarantee he’ll be able to participate in the start of training camp next month.
“I don’t know when I’m going to get cleared,” Jones said. “It’s out of my hands.”
Jones’ recovery is crucial for the Falcons, who finished 4-12 last season after five straight winning seasons.
Jones, a Pro Bowl pick in 2012, was leading the NFL in receptions in 2013 when he broke a bone in his right foot in a loss to the Jets on Oct. 7. He suffered a similar injury during his college career at Alabama.
“It is a freak accident, breaking the same bone,” Jones said.
The injury history makes it easy to understand why the Falcons have been cautious with the rehabilitation schedule. Even so, the long wait for medical clearance has been difficult for Jones.
“It feels like an eternity, just not being out there with my brothers,” Jones said during a promotional appearance for Vita Coco, an all-natural drink he endorses. “It’s been a very difficult process as far as that aspect of it but I’m just going through the treatment and just being smart about the whole situation.
“We’re just being careful about the situation and making sure I’m 100 percent before I go out there.”
Quarterback Matt Ryan said there is ample time for Jones to make up for missed time during OTAs.
“Julio has been in the building pretty much every day this offseason,” Ryan said. “While he hasn’t been able to be out on the practice field with us yet, we’ve communicated a lot. We’ve talked a lot and certainly have watched film together and tried to work on things in the classroom so that when we do get the opportunity to be out on the field we can hit the ground running.
“Our biggest thing, and coach Smith talks about it all the time, is getting to Week 1 with all our guys fresh and healthy.”
White joined practice on Tuesday for the first time in OTAs. White’s brother was shot and killed outside a South Carolina nightclub last month.
“He’s been through a lot the last three or four weeks with his family,” said coach Mike Smith. “It was good for him to be back with his football family. He looked great.”