Allen Park — Lions' sixth-round pick TJ Jones plans to practice next week for the first time since June, and even though there's a chance he won't play this year, he plans to convince the team he's ready to contribute.
"If I'm going back out on the field, I'm going out like I'm preparing to play," the rookie wide receiver said Friday. "I'm going to leave that decision up to the staff and how they grade my tape and my performance on the field."
The 6-foot Jones hasn't practiced since organized team activities in May when he aggravated a shoulder injury he suffered his senior year at Notre Dame. In June, he underwent surgery for an AC sprain in his right shoulder and hoped to be healthy for training camp.
Instead, Jones started training camp on the physically unable to perform list and has been there ever since.
"I was an angry kid," Jones said. "For a solid six weeks, I was mad at the world. I was ready for the second preseason game with my shoulder and then we found out that there was a nerve problem after the surgery. It's just frustrating."
Next week is Jones' final chance to begin practicing, and once he begins participating, the Lions will have three weeks to decide whether to add him to the active roster or keep him on PUP for the entire year.
"He's getting close to coming back," coach Jim Caldwell said.
The Lions could use more production from their receivers behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, but it's hard to see them carrying six receivers on the roster. Jones is also primarily a slot receiver, so he'd have to earn his playing time by impressing the coaches more than Jeremy Ross or Ryan Broyles.
Even though Jones' return to practice is good news for him, he still faces an uphill battle to contributing in his rookie season.
"I'm real excited just to get back out and practice," he said. "Even if I don't play this year, it'll be good just to get back on the field and just be out there — just running routes, getting back to football, getting back to why I came here in the first place.
"This watching and sitting out, it's not for me."