Allen Park — Lions defensive end Jason Jones participated in team drills in Tuesday’s mandatory minicamp for the first time since suffering a torn patellar tendon in his left knee during Week 3 of last season.
Coming off the field, Jones said he felt fine, but planned to talk to trainers about how his knee is healing.
“It felt good to be back out there, just getting a feel for everything,” he said. “(I’m) getting my angle points right, pass rush and stuff like that. Seeing blocks and seeing movement, it was cool.”
The Lions had high expectations for Jones after signing him to a three-year, $9.5 million deal last offseason. A Southfield native who went to Eastern Michigan, Jones was excited about the homecoming, but disappointed his 2013 season was cut short.
“I’m very hungry,” he said. “This is my first real live action against people since September. I sat out a long time, and I had a lot of time to think. I’ve been waiting for this moment right now, and I’m going of make the best of it.”
During voluntary minicamp and organized team activities this year, Jones didn’t participate in any team drills, but was running with the first team during drills Tuesday, the first of three minicamp practices this week. And so far, every indication has been that Jones will be a full participant when training camp begins at the end of July.
When Jones went down last season, Willie Young filled his starting spot on the left side, but with Young now in Chicago, he has a clear path to take back that job.
Plus, new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will employ closed and open ends, and at about 280 pounds, Jones is the best fit to line up on the closed side across from a tight end.
“That’s cool,” Jones said. “I’m a bigger end, so I’m used to going up against tight ends and stuff like that. At times I still will be the open-side end, but in our base line package, I’ll be the big end traveling with the call.”
Defensive linemen will also drop into coverage more in Austin’s scheme, and even though second-year ends Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor — who should play the open side — have more athletic upside, the 28-year-old Jones does have underrated athleticism as a former basketball standout at Southfield Lathrup.
“I definitely could do that,” he said. “I did it in Seattle, I did it a few times in Tennessee, so that’s no problem for me if that’s what our defense calls for.”