KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If Thomas Jones is worried about sharing the ball with Jamaal Charles, he’s not saying.
The newest addition to a suddenly crowded Kansas City backfield insisted Monday that personal numbers are not uppermost in his mind.
“I signed here to help the team win,” said Jones, who agreed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract last month.
“If I get five carries, I get five carries. If I get 25 carries, I get 25 carries,” he said. “All I can do at this point is prepare for the season like I’ve always done. That’s how I’ve been all my career.”
With the New York Jets last year, Jones got 331 carries in the regular season and wound up with 14 touchdowns and a career- best 1,402 yards, counting the postseason. He was a key component in the Jets making it all the way to the AFC championship game.
But soon to be 32, he’s almost nine years older than Charles, a blazing fast running back who burst into stardom in Kansas City last year after replacing the troubled Larry Johnson.
In just 10 starts and on 190 carries, Charles piled up 1,120 yards rushing, including a team-record 249 yards in the season finale at Denver. He became the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,100 yards on fewer than 200 carries and also had a long kickoff return for a TD.
At 5-foot-11, 190, Charles may have trouble absorbing a season- long pounding. Jones, an inch shorter but more than 20 pounds heavier, may be an effective tool in keeping the younger, faster man healthy and fresh.
If so, it’s a role that Jones says he would accept.
“I think going through a 16- game season you need two or three running backs,” he said. “It’s a physical game. Especially if you have two change-of-pace guys with different running styles, it makes it harder for the defense to adjust. It makes it tougher for them to prepare for you all week.”
Over the last eight games of the Chiefs’ 4-12 season, Charles rolled up 968 yards rushing, second only to the 1,047 yards of Tennessee’s Chris Johnson.
Charles’ emergence was hailed by Todd Haley as the greatest single development in his first year as head coach. Presumably, the Chiefs will go into camp figuring Charles as their first option.
“I think he’s a great back,” Jones said. “He’s got great quickness, great speed, great balance. He’s tough. And he’s got a lot of heart.”
It’s the first time in franchise history the Chiefs will open camp with two running backs coming off 1,000-yard seasons. Jones said he’s not worried about whatever role the Chiefs might have in mind for him.
“I’ve always been a team guy,” he said. “For me, the more good players you have the better your chance of winning. There is no perfect number of carries. It’s what you do with the numbers you have.”
Jones will no doubt be asked to provide locker room leadership. Where Charles is quiet and sticks to himself, Jones was twice voted by Jets players as their most inspirational teammate.
“It’s about a team coming together,” Jones said. “You can have a lot of good players on a team but if there’s no chemistry, in those close games you’re not going to be able to come together and find a way to win.”