Every fleet NFL superstar could use some magic shoes.
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has himself a new pair. Jones said a sports-apparel company designed a pair of special shoes for him.
“Under Armour built me a cleat from the ground up,” Jones said after practice Thursday. “It’s working good for me. They made it wider. There’s a steel shank the bottom as well. They made a great cleat for me.”
Jones, who is practicing one day and taking the next day off, appears just as fast as before his offseason foot surgery.
“It’ didn’t take long to get used to them,” Jones said. “Not at all. You can put anything on my feet. Football is football. I’ve been playing it for so long. I’ve just got to have something that’s comfortable. You can break in anything if you wear it long enough, but there was nothing to get used to at all.”
When he practices, Jones appears to be fully recovered, but the team has been taking extra precaution with his surgically repaired foot.
Jones apparently hasn’t lost much speed, as he got open deep on the left sideline and caught a 40-yard Matt Ryan pass with cornerback Desmond Trufant in coverage.
“I was very excited to see Matt and Julio hook up on some long balls,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said.
Jones enjoyed making the play.
“It felt good,” Jones said “I just took off from the line of scrimmage. No moves or anything. I just wanted to open up and see what I had, but I felt great. No tightness or anything. I could’ve run faster, but I did what I needed to do and made a play.”
The stress fracture in Jones’ foot was discovered at the 2011 scouting combine. He had the first surgery in February 2011.
Jones was solid as a rookie in 2011 and went to the Pro Bowl after his second season in 2012. Last season, Jones caught 41 passes and was on a record-setting pace for a big season before he suffered the broken foot.
He had a second surgery in October by renowned foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson of Charlotte, N.C. The surgeon took bone marrow — fluid and cells — from his hip and injected it into his foot to hopefully aide the healing process.
The Falcons are being extra cautious about Jones’ return from the surgery.
“They did a great job in the offseason, just getting my confidence back, before I stepped on the field for me to not have doubts and go full speed,” said Jones, who’ll likely be held out of exhibition game. “It’s a process. … The biggest key is they want me ready for New Orleans.
The Falcons have Jones on a snap count for practice.
“It doesn’t prove anything if I go out here and run 40 or 50 routes in practice and something happens,” Jones said.
The Falcons likely will try to get him action in the third exhibition game of the season, usually the regular-season tuneup game.
“I’ll be ready for it,” Jones said. “What we’re doing now is taking every step, every little procedure to get there so that I’m healthy and I don’t have any doubts about my ability to go out there and make plays.”
The Falcons may consider increasing his snaps.
“We’ll re-evaluate after the first week of training camp and determine if we are going to up those snaps are making any adjustments,” Smith said.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan believes that Jones is doing just fine.
“Obviously, it’s great to have him back,” Ryan said. “He’s an unbelievable player and such an incredible talent.”
When Jones is not practicing, he’s helping the younger receivers on the roster.
“I’m helping the team right now because we need some guys to make this team and also workout our defense and the scout team,” Jones said.
Jones knows that he and his new shoes will be counted on to make more plays this season because of the retirement of former tight end Tony Gonzalez.
“We just brought in Devin Hester,” Jones said. “We can go four and five wide (receivers) now. Tony caught about 80 balls a year, so now me and Roddy (White) have got to split those balls up on top of the ones we were catching.
“Now me and Roddy will continue to get the double coverage, but Harry (Douglas) had 1,000 yards (receiving) last year. Everybody knows he can beat the man-to-man coverage, and we’ve got Hester who can make some great plays for us, too.”