As he retires, remembering the stain Pacman Jones left on the Titans

pacmanMugNASHVILLE, Tenn. – Pacman Jones was a destructive force for the Titans, who stained the organization and branded both Jeff Fisher and Floyd Reese with irremovable tattoos.

They thought a talented, electric returner and cornerback was good enough to take a chance on with the sixth pick in 2005 and that they could fix him, police him and get all the good and none of the bad.

And what they got was a guy who made some great plays, strayed far from what his coaches asked him to do and stained the organization.

The worst of it resulted in a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct resulting from his part in stirring up a Las Vegas strip club shooting that left Tom Urbanski a paraplegic.

Jones had more interactions with law enforcement than we could count and was coddled and babied by Fisher which only made things worse. He was as big a distraction as was imaginable. He was constantly in national headlines painting the Titans in a terrible light. He wound up suspended for the 2007 season, one of the first to players to be sidelined under the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The Titans shipped him to Dallas before he was reinstated and could embarrass them any further. [Unlocked]

Working in tandem with Jim Wyatt at The Tennessean during the Pacman era, the editor who scheduled us typically put us down as “Titans 1” and “Titans 2,” with the 1 being on the daily developments and the 2 working on something more long term.

Pacman changed that as one of us was “Titans” and one of us was “Pacman.” As Jones got in trouble in between Nashville and Georgia I maintained a notebook with names of counties and numbers of public information offices and officers that built up over time as I’d catch wind of a rumor of Jones getting pulled over or arrested making a run from Nashville home to Atlanta.

Sometimes those tips produced a story, sometimes they produced nothing, but we always had to chase them.PacmanHedShot

This runs you through just his rap sheet from Tennessee and Dallas. After he was gone I was told there was plenty of other stuff we'd missed.

Much of the media adopted one of Pac's favorite catchphrases passing the blame: "Lewis had the weed." 

I wrote a 100-inch story on his background for the paper the summer before his second season, making trips to West Virginia and Georgia. I shared a couple of details with him over the course of a few days at the Titans training camp at Austin Peay in 2006.

Typically, such an approach perks up a guy’s ears, showing him you’ve done some serious digging and setting him up for a conversation where he’d confirm some of what you’d learned and reflect on other pieces of it.

He did take an interest when I told him about the places I'd gone and the people I spoke to and he was intrigued. But when I later approached him to fact check and interview, he nastily declined which is fine, and threatened me in a way that made my wife wonder if we were in danger, which was not fine.

He struck actual fear of that sort into people who failed to steer clear on the wrong day. You think I’m petty for recounting this on the day of his retirement? I think you’ve lost your memory, or your mind. Jones isn’t the kind of guy who’s reputation fades with time.

Even if you read a feature about him being sweet to his agent’s daughter, it doesn’t remove his proclivity for spitting on people. Arrests are not something from the distant past. Keep reading. 

I don’t care a bit that he was lucky enough to land in Cincinnati for eight years, where the Bengals have long been fine with criminal behavior, or that he survived in the league for 12 years.

apple icon 114x114 precomposedHe was suspended for the 2017 opener thanks to a January 2017 arrest. In July 2018, he did take the high road and worked to walk away from somebody trying to pick an airport fight with him. But he was arrested as recently as February (see above photo).

Pay no tribute to Jones for surviving in the NFL. It says more about the league’s willingness to take talent at any cost than it does for him.

It’d be great if he does well in retirement.

But at his core, I believe he’s a bad guy who’s record says he’s not changed and he is not changing. And I don’t think it’s an unsafe bet that we’ll see him in another mug shot.

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