KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, who has been in the midst of a contract dispute, left open the possibility that he could be on the field for the Kansas City Chiefs when they open the season on Thursday night against the Detroit Lions.
Jones has been working out in Miami throughout the offseason and training camp while his agents, Jason and Michael Katz, negotiate with the Chiefs on a potential extension. Jones is entering the final year of a four-year, $80 million deal, and said in his first public comments Wednesday that he “just wants a raise” like any other employee in any line of work.
“Hopefully it gets worked out,” said Jones, who was accompanied by the Katz brothers on a trip to visit with kids at Ronald McDonald House Charities. “It’s always been my goal to be a Kansas City Chief for life. I’ve said that multiple time on social media platforms, from interviews, and they know where my position is at.”
More than 40 local families at the Ronald McDonald House, which is dedicated to supporting families with sick children in their time of need, were able to meet with Jones during his appearance in Kansas City.
The 29-year-old pass rusher already has accrued millions in fines for missing mandatory workouts, training camp and preseason games. If Jones does not report before Thursday, he will begin losing about $1.1 million in weekly game checks.
Asked whether he felt he had let anybody down by not reporting, Jones replied: “How?”
“That’s what I have to ask,” Jones continued. “How have I let them down? It’s just like when you’re at a job, you’re asking for a raise, who are you letting down? When you take the personal feelings out of it, you can kind of get it.”
Jones is coming off perhaps his best season, matching a career high with 15 1/2 sacks on the way to a Super Bowl title.
His absence from the Kansas City defense could be particularly damaging given the loss of defensive end Charles Omenihu, who is suspended for six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. That has left youngsters George Karlaftis, entering his second year, and first-round draft pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah as the Chiefs’ main pass rushers.
The market for defensive tackles, set by Aaron Donald with a three-year, $95 million deal, skyrocketed this past offseason. The Giants’ Dexter Lawrence and the Commanders’ Daron Payne each signed four-year, $90 million pacts, the Titans’ Jeffrey Simmons signed for four years and $95 million, and the Jets’ Quinnen Williams agreed to a four-year, $96 million deal.
The Chiefs and Jones’ representatives were at an impasse until about a week ago, when general manager Brett Veach said their communication had increased in recent days. Veach was even optimistic that Jones would be available against Detroit.
“We’re going to continue to press on and work hard,” he said. “A lot of respect on both sides of this thing. It’s been well-stated how we feel about Chris and he feels the same thing. We’re just going to keep working on this thing.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid was blunt when asked about Jones after their final practice Tuesday. Reid declined to say whether he has been involved in negotiations and has continually said that his focus is solely on the players that are available.
“That’s where I’m at,” Reid said. “If you’re not there, you’re not there. Unfortunately, that’s the name of the game, so you can’t spend time — you have got to exhaust your time on the team you’re playing. So that’s where we’re at.”
Turns out there’s a chance, however slight it may be, that Jones could be there against the Lions on Thursday night.
“I’ve been keeping in contact with my teammates. I’ve been working out every day, doing similar things to what they’re doing in training camp,” he said. “I’ll be ready when the time comes.”