June 9, 2013

NFL Insider: Landry Jones happy to be a Steeler, though his dad wavered

The Pittsburgh rookie and former Oklahoma quarterback was named after Cowboys coaching icon Tom Landry.

Landry Jones didn’t care when he was drafted or where he went. He is happy to be in Pittsburgh, which won four Super Bowls with Terry Bradshaw as their quarterback and have another two with Ben Roethlisberger.

Kevin Jones, though, needed a little more time to warm up to the idea of his son being a part of Steelers Nation. Kevin was a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan, having shown love to his team by naming his son after Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry.

“He had a hard time coming over to it,” Landry said with a laugh in a phone interview last week, “but now he’s pumped; he’s excited. He’s a diehard [Steelers fan] now.”

The Steelers drafted the former Oklahoma star hoping to groom him behind Roethlisberger. Charlie Batch, 38, had been the Steelers’ backup since 2002, but Pittsburgh signed Bruce Gradkowski and John Parker Wilson and drafted Jones.

Jones is the Steelers’ highest-drafted quarterback since Roethlisberger, the 11th overall pick in 2004. Pittsburgh selected Omar Jacobs in the fifth round in 2006 and Dennis Dixon in the fifth round in 2008, but neither Jacobs nor Dixon was greeted by comments from Batch about being the heir apparent as Jones was.

For his part, Jones has downplayed any talk about him being the future.

“Ben’s going to play however long he wants to play,” said Jones, who married Whitney Hand in Fort Worth on July 6, 2012. “I’m just here to take advantage of an opportunity to get to go out there, and whenever I do, I do. If I don’t, I don’t. It’s really out of my hands. I’m just going to work as hard as I can.”

The Steelers want Roethlisberger, 31, to play out his career in Pittsburgh, and he likely will receive a contract extension before the 2014 season, when his cap number is scheduled to be almost $19 million. But only once in nine years has Roethlisberger played a full 16-game season.

Roethlisberger, who missed three games with rib and shoulder injuries last season, had minor knee surgery last week.

But Jones, the Steelers’ only unsigned draft pick, has a lot to learn before he starts an NFL game. He calls the Steelers’ offense completely new from what he did at OU, where he started 50 games and passed for 16,646 yards and 123 touchdowns.

“I’m just trying to learn the offense right now,” Jones said. “That’s my biggest concern.”

Kolb helps

As Kevin Kolb was landing at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport on May 15 to end a turbulent flight, an EF-4 tornado was tearing apart a Granbury subdivision. The Buffalo Bills quarterback said passengers were so relieved to land that they saluted the pilot with wild applause.

“That’s how unique it was,” Kolb said in a phone interview Thursday. “But right when we got to DFW, a bad cell was sitting right on top of DFW. We were stuck on the plane for 45 minutes on the tarmac while the storm was hitting. While this was going on, the guy behind me says, ‘Holy cow, Granbury just got hit by three tornadoes.’ I’m like, ‘What did you just say?’”

Kolb and his wife, Whitney, have made Granbury their home since Kolb entered the NFL in 2007, and they built their dream home on the lake a year ago. Whitney and the couple’s children were waiting for Kolb at the airport during the tornado outbreak.

Kolb called a neighbor who reported that the Kolbs’ home was unharmed.

“None of our outdoor furniture was even moved,” Kolb said, “but one of my neighbors took a picture from his doorstep of the one that was a mile wide, and you could see it off in the distance. It’s intimidating, completely intimidating. We were lucky.”

Sixteen tornadoes hit the area that day, leaving six dead in Granbury and hundreds homeless.

The Kolbs contacted their church, StoneWater, to ask how they could help. Since they haven’t yet sold their first residence in Granbury — a four-bedroom home in a gated community — the Kolbs are providing it to a family from their church who lost everything in the storms. The family will live in the home until they are able to rebuild.

“We’re capable of doing it, and it’s obviously a family that desperately needed a place to stay,” Kolb said. “It’s cool to be able to help.”

Jackson back healthy

Fred Jackson will let Bills fans count his carries this season as he and C.J. Spiller divvy up the load. All Jackson wants is for Buffalo to be able to count on him.

Jackson missed the final six games of 2011 with a broken right leg. Last season, he twice sprained his right knee and had a concussion. The former Arlington Lamar star has missed 10 of the team’s past 22 games.

“Oh, my gosh,” Jackson said in a phone interview. “The last two years have been super frustrating. That’s what I’m trying to feed off of is how frustrated I’ve been. That’s my No. 1 goal — to get through a whole season healthy.”

Jackson, entering the second year of a two-year, $9 million contract extension he signed in May 2012, is excited about the offensive changes new head coach Doug Marrone has brought to Buffalo.

“It’s drastically different in the fact that it’s going to be an up-tempo, timing, hit-defenses-in-the-mouth offense,” Jackson said. “It’s an attacking offense. We’re constantly trying to score points. Our goal is to put up more points each week as we go. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a fun offense to play in.”

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