Lawsuit won't change Jones's loyalties
INDIANAPOLIS - Ten years have passed since Tebucky Jones helped the Patriots win their first Super Bowl.
“Ten years?’’ he said. “Wow, that went by fast.’’
So fast, Jones said, that he hasn’t lost sleep over a judge tossing out his $3.75 million malpractice claim against the Patriots doctors who treated his career-ending leg injury in 2006. Jones is appealing a Suffolk Superior Court justice’s decision last year to dismiss the case against Drs. Thomas Gill and Bertram Zarins. A hearing is scheduled for next month.
Jones, 37, who coaches football and runs the dropout prevention program at his alma mater, New Britain (Conn.) High School, experienced the best and worst of professional football with the Patriots.
On Feb. 3, 2002, his performance as a defensive back at the Superdome in New Orleans helped secure the historic Super Bowl victory over the Rams. He made two crushing tackles early in the game that sent notice to St. Louis - the so-called Greatest Show on Turf - that the Patriots would be the tougher team that night.
Jones seemed destined to be credited with the decisive play of the game when he returned a Kurt Warner fumble 97 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, giving the Patriots a 24-3 advantage. But the return was nullified by a holding penalty on Willie McGinest, and the Rams scored one play later to cut New England’s lead to 17-10.
“It’s too bad that play got called back,’’ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick this week, “because it would have added a couple of years to my life.’’
Ten years later, Jones continues to maintain that he and McGinest were victims of a bad call.
“That was not holding,’’ he insisted.
In any case, the damage was done, causing Belichick to anguish until Adam Vinatieri kicked the winning field goal on the last play of the game. New England 20, St. Louis 17.
Amid the postgame mayhem, Jones hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, a childhood dream realized.
“Everybody said we couldn’t win,’’ he recalled. “We were sitting in our locker room saying, ‘Are you serious?’ We knew we could beat them. They were fast, but we were fast and physical. That was the difference.’’
Four years later, Jones experienced his worst moment in football. Having signed a two-year contract to rejoin the Patriots in the spring of 2006 - he had been traded to the Saints in 2003 - Jones badly injured his right leg in a preseason game against the Redskins. He was sidelined for the 2006 season and received his base salary of $720,000.
The Patriots terminated his contract after the season, costing him the $720,000 he could have earned for the 2007 season. He also could have earned $1.5 million in incentives over the course of the contract.
He never again played in the NFL.
Two years after the injury, the Patriots signed off on a $140,000 worker’s compensation payment to Jones. Soon after that, he sued the team’s physicians, claiming they mistreated him. The doctors denied the allegations.
Jones sought a jury trial, but after two preliminary hearings the judge dismissed the complaint.
“I don’t have any hard feelings toward the Patriots,’’ Jones said. “I wasn’t raised that way.’’
He said he only is trying to recover the money he believes he deserves.
“I learned about the business side of football from the Patriots,’’ Jones said. “It’s business. I can totally separate business from the playing part.’’
As for the Super Bowl, he said, “I have no mixed feelings. I’m a New Englander. If it’s a New England team, I’m going for them.’’
Bob Hohler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.