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Punter is hopeful Rams are final stop
By Kathleen Nelson
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Friday, Jun. 08 2007
As an author, punter Donnie Jones knows the elements of a good story: conflict,
irony, closing one chapter, moving on to the next, and a happy ending. He has
turned the page on a two-year stint with Miami and started fresh with the Rams.
Jones, 26, signed a five-year, $5.59 million offer in April. Even though Miami
had seven days to match, Jones said, "The first day I signed the deal, I
cleaned my locker."
Why the rush? The Dolphins seemed to sour on Jones when new Dolphins coach Cam
Cameron hired special teams coach Steve Hoffman, whom Jones cast as "a kicking
guru or something. ... This guy wanted to change everything I've done, and what
I'd done in the past wasn't good enough. I beg to differ."
Jones led the NFL in net punting average (39.3) in 2005, when Rams coach Scott
Linehan served as the Dolphins' offensive coordinator.
"We brought him into training camp, and he won the job," Linehan said of 2005,
when Jones replaced Matt Turk. "I think the thing that impressed me the most
was his work ethic and his talent. He's got a very, very talented leg. He's
just a good young player that we had an opportunity to have here for a number
of years, as opposed to one."
In fact, the Rams haven't kept the same punter for more than two years since
moving to St. Louis. In an ironic twist, though, Jones again will replace Turk,
whom Jones called a "tremendous, supportive guy" because of their friendship in
"I talked to him before I signed and he said, 'There's no hard feelings. I'm
happy for you,'" Jones said. "I can't speak more for the guy. He really was a
big help for me."
Jones launched his literary career by authoring "Nine Seconds to a
Championship," the story of the 2003 season of LSU, his alma mater. He said he
wrote the book to "look back on the game and the years you played and give back
to the fans who supported the team."
After the national championship, though, the native of Baton Rouge moved to
Seattle, which selected him in the seventh round of the 2004 draft. He bounced
between the practice squad and regular roster with a release or two thrown in
for good measure.
But with a five-year deal, the time is right to take root in a place that Jones
called "homey." He and his wife, Aubrie, are expecting a baby in October, and
he hopes the last chapter of his career will find his family living happily
ever after with the Rams.
"This will be my third team in four years, so I'm hoping that now I've really
found a home, I'll be here for 10 years, and when I get to that 36, 37 age they
can bring in another guy," he said.
Running back Brian Leonard will switch from jersey number 36 to 23, which he
wore at Rutgers. The number became available when the Rams released cornerback
Jerametrius Butler, who signed with the Redskins on Thursday.
The Rams will hold their full-squad, mandatory minicamp Tuesday through
Thursday at Rams Park. Practices will be closed to the public.
Re: Punter is hopeful Rams are final stop
im glad we have a punter signed for a long time, hopefully this means some consistency on the special teams for a while.
Also, it was only a matter of time before Brian Leonard got his number 23, i cant wait to see what he can do.
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