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Jones, Lions Dispute Report; Insist RB's Recovery On Track
February is a difficult time of the year for avid Fantasy owners. The 2006 season is officially over and the Champions have been crowned. But because free agency doesn't start until March, hard news items are few and far between.

The NFL Scouting Combine helps fill the void, but for the most part, we face a month packed with speculation and rumor. A prime example would be a series of reports that on Lions halfback Kevin Jones.

It all started on Saturday, when NFL Network insider Adam Schefter, citing team sources, advised viewers the Lions "now expect to lose Jones for at least half the 2007 season."

To review, Jones gained 1,209 total yards in 2006 -- 689 rushing, 520 receiving -- before going down Dec. 10 against Minnesota. He suffered a Lisfranc injury -- a tearing of the tissues that connect the bones in the middle of the foot -- and had surgery three days later.

While there had been questions surrounding the timetable for Jones' return, all reports emanating from Detroit over the last month seemed to suggest a timely recovery (see Jan. 4 and Jan. 17 News & Views items).

So it's safe to say Schefter's report represented a significant and sudden shift away from the company line.

On Sunday, however, Tom Kowalski, long-time Lions beat writer for Booth Newspapers, the Sporting News and, strongly disputed Schefter's report.

As Kowalski put it: "The report makes it sound like there's been some new information about his Lisfranc injury, but that's just not true."

Kowalski went on to advise readers that Jones just returned from two weeks in Florida, where he took part in some of the Super Bowl activities. Jones remains in a boot, but has already started the early process of his rehabilitation. He is right on schedule to return for the start of training camp in July.

Two days later, Jones and the Lions joined the argument.

As Detroit Free Press sports writer Nicholas J. Cotsonika reminded readers, Lions head athletic trainer Al Bellamy said back in December that Jones' injury was a "three-plus" on a scale of one to three.

On Tuesday, Bellamy said the Lions were "extremely happy" with Jones' progress.

"His rehab is going very well, and he is right where we hoped he would be at this point in time," Bellamy said through a team spokesman. "We are optimistic that he will be ready for the beginning of the 2007 season."

Jones also went on the record Tuesday, specifically discussing his view of Schefter's report.

"My goal is to get back by training camp and try to be able to move around," the former first-round draft pick explained. "They're not going to rush me back and take the chance of me re-injuring myself. So the amount of time it's going to take. ... I can't really tell you an exact date because I don't know and they don't really know. Now they're just trying to see how much it heals.

"But to say I'm going to miss half the season is idiotic because nobody knows the exact thing that's going to happen with my foot. The doctor who did it said I would be back by training camp, so who would know better than him.

"He did Warrick Dunn's foot and he was back for the (start of the 2004) season so hopefully I can heal up too."

Dunn missed the final five games of the 2003 season (Jones missed the final three games of 2006) and was not only back in time for the 2004 season, but has started every single game since (48 straight games).

Jones admits the injury was hard to deal with at first. He had never been hurt so badly that he couldn't walk around and do everyday tasks. But he went from a cast and crutches to the walking boot two weeks ago and says he could have done it a week earlier.

Now he is rehabbing at team headquarters, lifting weights and even riding a stationary bike.

"It feels fine, really," Jones said. "Really no pain right now, just some swelling that needs to get out of there."

Jones is scheduled to go from the boot to a special shoe in two more weeks.

He will have screws removed from his foot in the spring. He isn't sure when he will be ready to run in a regular shoe, but he expects to be jogging by the start of training camp -- if not before -- and ready for the regular season.

"I'm going to ease into things," Jones said. "I'm not going to jump back into it like it never happened. I'm going to be cautious so I can be ready by the season. …

"Camp is important, but not as important as getting back for the first game."

It's safe to assume team officials concur. As Kowalski suggested, even if Jones gets cleared to work when training camp opens, it's extremely unlikely the Lions will do much with him until mid-August. There's no point in rushing things and they can afford to give him as much recovery time as possible. ...

If you're looking for a point of agreement common to all the reportage, it would be this: The belief that Detroit will look to acquire a veteran running back in free agency as insurance.

Jones' backups -- Shawn Bryson and rookie Brian Calhoun -- went on injured reserve earlier in the season and Detroit finished the season with Arlen Harris and Aveion Cason carrying the ball. Former Ram Lamar Gordon was added to the roster shortly after Jones was hurt and appeared in one game.

Schefter believes the Lions will take a look at San Diego's restricted free-agent running back Michael Turner and Arizona's unrestricted free-agent running back Marcel Shipp when the free-agent signing period begins on March 2.

According to Cotsonika, acquiring an additional back would be fine with Jones.

"I guess it would make sense to have insurance," Jones said. "To me, it doesn't matter who they bring in here or who's in the backfield in competition with me, because I'll win. As long as I'm healthy, I'll win it. I'll win my position."

Would the team go so far as to draft a running back?

According to Schefter, the Lions, scheduled to pick second this year, like Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and will debate picking him there.

But team officials have concerns about Peterson's durability and injury history, which could cause them to lean towards taking Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas.

For what it's worth, Kowalski doesn't believe the Lions "leaked" the story to confuse the issue at the top of the draft board. He added: "That's not how they operate."

Then, in what could be viewed as a shot at Schefter's initial report, Kowalski summed up: "Besides, any half-baked investigation by another team would reveal that it's not true."

Stay tuned. I'll continue to follow Jones' progress in coming months and report back as developments warrant.