One week ago I knew how I felt about Adam "Pacman" Jones, a guy who has infuriated more people than, dare I say it, his former teammate T.O. Basically, I wanted to choke him out. I wanted to put him to sleep (in an MMA type of way, people, not a Michael Corleone type of way, let's be clear here!).
But after spending a few days with him on the set of Spike TV's Pros Vs. Joes, my take has changed. I actually like the kid. I like him a lot.
Is that wrong? That's what I'm wrestling with. It's like the forgiving Glazer is cheating on the violent Glazer.
I was chosen to host next month's Pros Vs. Joes largely because I'm somewhat out of my mind, partly because of my ability to connect with athletes. But my bread is buttered as FOX Sports' NFL Insider.
That job requires objectivity, but hey, I have preconceptions, too. I envisioned Pacman pissing me off at some point (I don't have the longest fuse in the world) and me attempting to block the circulation of blood flow to the brain.
Instead, I came away hoping that the kid who seemed to "get it" in our few days together has turned the corner. He never once shied away and tried to say he did nothing wrong. To the contrary, he openly talked about how much he's screwed up and how he relished the chance to change and prove he has changed. I don't really know how I should feel about this.
"I got a little girl. I'm engaged now, so I have other things that interest me other than going to strip clubs, hanging out with 20 guys till four or five o'clock in the morning," Jones said in an exclusive interview. "I want to play football and you can't do those types of things with my lifestyle and all the controversy I've had."
In past interviews, Pacman often denied wrongdoing for his arrests and suspensions. He blamed everyone but himself. I was waiting for him to take this same approach with me. If he had, I was going to jump down his throat. He never gave me the chance.
"If anything goes wrong, it's going to be, 'Oh Pac was there, Pac this, Pac that,'" Jones said. "I'm not saying I haven't done that, I've done some wrong things, I'm no angel by far. But a lot of things I got myself into was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
"I know, let's not go into the (strip clubs), or hang out with the guys I used to hang out with. I don't got to stay out till four o'clock in the morning."
I've had a ton of guys tell me they've changed and I knew they'd be back in trouble before I could hit the "send" button on my column. But this guy felt a little different to me than those clowns.
Of all the former star athletes we had battle it out on this season of PVJ -- and we had major star power like Alonzo Mourning, Steve McNair, Robert Horry, Priest Holmes, the list goes on and on (insert horrific gagging for my shameless plug) -- Pacman was, simply put, eager to please. He wasn't pompous. He wasn't a thug. In fact, he was a natural showman who couldn't have been more gracious.
I asked him to play it up, pump up some trash talk with our Joes for some great TV. He was fantastic, a natural with one-liners -- the type of comedy you'd pay a two-drink minimum for in a comedy club.
At one point he got into a scuffle with a young man named Dan Adams. A nice little football fight. It was perfect TV. Folks, this was not Pacman being a knucklehead. This was Pacman giving us exactly what we were asking for. Maybe it was that little stint he did in pro wrestling but the kid understands what would make good TV. Even after his little tussle, he gave my co-host Michael Strahan and me a little wink as if to say, "I promised you guys I'd make it good for you."
But the showman had me wondering, is this really a different Pacman?
"In certain situations, I tell you it's not my fault, but when it's my fault, I say I was dead-ass wrong for doing what I did," said Jones, who has been exiled by two NFL teams in the last two years. "At the end of the day I can't keep looking at the past from two years or three years back. Hey, I used to love the strip clubs. I was 21, 22, 23 years old. Every gentleman, if you're normal, you love the strip clubs, too. Nice girls, young, nude...All part of having fun when you're growing up."
Jones insists he has "a few" interested suitors for his services. While he refused to reveal the teams, Jones was specific about the tone of the talks he has already had.
"Of course my interview process is different because of the stuff I've been through in my past," he said. "They want to make sure that I'm on the straight and narrow and that I'm really focused to play football.
"The main question is why do you want to play so much? You have to do this and do that and you can't live a normal life. My answer is I love playing football."
I thought for sure he'd take the route that he's the victim of misinformation or some other line of B.S. Instead, Pacman seemed to embrace the road he's forced himself to take.
"At the end of the day, I just want to play football," he said. "It might just be I want to play this year. Maybe I want to play two more years. Right now in my career, I'm willing to sacrifice the B.S. so I can make sure I play football."
Even if it's for the league minimum? After all, who in their right mind would risk any sort of financial investment in a guy who has shown zero credibility in the reliability department?
"Yeah, well, I was the sixth pick when I came into this league so I made a lot of money when I first got here," said Jones, who was chosen in 2005 by Tennessee. "If I have to play for the league minimum for a few years, I'm going to just to prove to somebody that I'm accountable. After that, the sky's the limit."
Can you see why I'm struggling here? Here's a guy linked to a shooting in Las Vegas that left a good man paralyzed. He has been given chance upon chance. Even one of our Joes popped off about wishing it was him who was blessed with such ability because he wouldn't have squandered it.
I saw a kid with unbelievable talent and speed. His backpedaling was faster than every other PVJ participant running forward. Football is effortless for him. Strahan said he is actually quite football smart in the way he uses leverage, angles, and his body.
I'm hoping he can right the wrongs he's done. I'm hoping he's buried the Pacman who infuriated us.
He had been a symbol for everything wrong with today's sports world. Now he has a chance to become a symbol that you can, believe it or not, change
I don't want to choke the kid out anymore. I'm actually rooting for him.
By: Jay Glazer