Sidney Jones went out for his first practice rep as a Philadelphia Eagle and had to resist the urge to break out in a huge smile.
"It was kickoff return," he said. "I was just so happy. I just looked around and couldn't believe it."
Jones, the Eagles' rookie second-round pick, practiced Wednesday for the first time since he blew out his Achilles during his pro day at the University of Washington back on March 11.
He probably won't play this year, but just being out there and practicing after 10 months of rehab was … indescribable.
"I can’t even describe how happy and excited I am," he said after practice. "It’s been a long road. I’m just happy to be back with my team.
“It’s been a long road to even play football. I haven’t played football since my last college game, which was approximately a year ago. It was a first step, and I can’t wait for the future."
The Eagles have a three-week window in which Jones is allowed to practice. After that, they have to either shut him down or activate him.
But Jones wasn't worried about any of that Wednesday. He was just thrilled to be on the field with the teammates who've helped him through this endless grind.
“It’s been a long journey," Jones said in his first interview since draft weekend in April. "I’ve had a great support system around me, everybody’s been helping me, telling me this, telling me that.
"A few guys I reached out to or reached out to to me and gave me advice, people who’d hurt their Achilles before. Jason Peters helped me out a lot, Jordan Hicks helped me out a lot as well. Everybody’s been supportive."
The Eagles' defensive coaches threw a lot at Jones, treating him like a member of the active roster. He was in all the meetings, all the film sessions, out at practice watching. He prepared to play, even though he knew he couldn't.
It was all about keeping him engaged, keeping him involved, building toward 2018, when he'll presumably be a key member of this secondary.
"I think we'll see pretty quickly that he has a good grasp of what he's expected to do," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Keeping his ears open and his eyes open has been his No. 1 job description over these last six months.
"I've been really proud of what he's done there. I would be very surprised if he can't go in and execute what we're asking him to do. There's certainly a lot of rust that goes into it. With all due respect to our trainers, they are not a challenge to cover, and he's only been working with those guys.
"So we've got to take each step along the way. It's almost like the first week of OTAs for him. It's not even really a first week of training camp. It's more like first week of OTAs for him."
Jones said that when he was drafted, he didn't expect to get so much support from his teammates, but he said the other defensive backs have made sure he's felt a part of things throughout his rehab.
"I didn’t expect the league to be like this, but my teammates, my DB squad, they’re awesome, they’re terrific," he said. "Those are my brothers.
"It’s a real brotherhood around here, and they’ve had my back every step of the way."
Jones, projected as a high first-round pick before his injury, said the past year has really taught him to appreciate the game more than he ever did.
“I was always grateful," he said. "In college I would go out and just every day think how grateful I am but now that it actually happened … and I got injured, I really have to be grateful because it could happen again. You never know when it’s going to happen. Just have to take every day like it's your last and go out there and give everything you’ve got."
Jones said his surgically reconstructed Achilles felt 100 percent at practice and he said he actually wasn't even thinking about it when he was out there running around.
He said he feels further behind physically than mentally.
“Just got to take it slow," he said. "I’ve got to get into shape first, that’s the biggest thing, so I don’t hurt any other body parts and stuff. Just trying to get better every day. It’s just a process.
"Just trying to get my feet wet so next year I’ll have some feet on the ground. Something to work with."