Pacman Fever: The Detroit Lions and the Ghosts of Adam Jones

Daniel MuthSenior Analyst IMarch 21, 2010

Adam Jones is more commonly known as "Pacman" and has been recognised as such for much of his life, dubbed early on by his mother who noticed his propensity for gobbling up his milk as a toddler.

This was a name that would aptly transfer to his football career where, as a high school, collegiate, and professional athlete, he showed a more remarkable propensity for gobbling up every pass that came his way on defense.

In short, his early career was a remarkable success, but was blemished by a bizarre night club disturbance in Las Vegas and other incidents, and he is now seeking redemption in a league that is more and more concerned with personal accountability.

And since every Pacman has at least four visages that endlessly follow him around the maze of life, it's probably wise to take a look at these a little more closely before we make any assessments about the professional future of Pacman Jones.

Every Pacman is blessed/cursed by four ghosts.

The Orange Ghost: Pokey or Stupid?

There is little doubt that the early life of Adam Jones was not as stable as that of many of the readers of this particular article.

Born in Atlanta, his father was murdered when he was just a boy and he was subsequently raised by his mother and grandmother.  In his early days on the tough "Hotlanta" streets, it is certain that Jones picked up some habits that might not be deemed acceptable in the professional world.

Jones felt the sting of loss again in his college years when his Grandmother died of cancer, prompting him to wear a T-shirt with her image on it at the NFL draft.

The purpose of this particular background is not to free Pacman from responsibility, as many people have overcome the type of obstacles mentioned, but to frame how this circumstance could have played into some poor decision making later.

This is his "orange ghost" and the one that any team interested in picking up Jones will have to wrestle with.

The orange ghost in the original Japanese version of the video game had the "stupid" tag placed upon it, whereas in the American version that ghost became known as "pokey."

And therein lies the question.  Is Adam "Pacman" Jones stupid or just plain pokey?

If he's stupid then there's not much hope for him.  If he's stupid then he's bound to keep making the same mistakes he's made in the past and—if he's stupid—then the Detroit Lions have no business messing around with him.

If he's pokey, however, just a guy that grew up in tough circumstances with little guidance who was handed millions of dollars and no supervision, then he may just be a guy that made some ludicrous mistakes and has been slow to mature. 

At this point however, it's important to note that his lessons absolutely need to have been learned.

And if any NFL guy is in a position to read into Pacman's heart, it might just be Lions coach Jim Schwartz, who was there when the Titans selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft.

It has been reported that the two have a good relationship, so of the teams interested in obtaining Jones' services, it might be that the Lions are in the best position to evaluate his character.

The Pink Ghost: Speedy

Though the original Japanese translation of this is more akin to "ambusher", a name that also applies to some of the strengths in Jones' game, I find the American version of "speedy," more appropriate given the revelations of his most recent pro workout.

According to his agent (so we'll take this with a grain of salt), Jones ran a 4.42 and a 4.48 in his 40 yard dash during his workout, which would be faster than any of combine workouts of this years much hyped DB rookie class.

That type of speed is elite and it's the type of thing that leads one to believe that Jones hasn't lost a step.

So even though the Lions would covet Jones' proven abilities in the secondary, he would also be a huge upgrade in the punt/kick return areas.

Many forget that during his fabulous 2006 season (last full season before suspension), not only did he prove himself as a legit NFL DB, he also returned three punts for touchdowns and led the league in punt return average, besting the incandescent Chicago return man Devin Hester by a tenth of a yard.

The guy has jets.

The Lions haven't had that type of impact return man in quite awhile, which could do wonders in the field position battle, and give their young quarterback a little more breathing room at the start of drives.

So while it's important to consider Pacman as an upgrade to the depth of Detroit's current defensive backfield situation, it's his dual role as a return man that makes him especially valuable.

The NFL game is all about speed, and it's plain to see the haunting talent embodied in Pacman's pink ghost.

The Red Ghost: Shadow

So there's no denying Pacman's skills and there's no denying that the man has made some mistakes, but maybe it's worth it to look at the exact nature of those mistakes a little more closely, the most notable of which extends from a fateful night at a Las Vegas nightclub.

The red ghost is known as "shadow," and while our earlier examination of Pacman's orange ghost questioned the circumstances that may have led to some of the man's troubles, it's the red ghost that speaks to the actions themselves.

So let's look at one incident specifically; a night so bizarre that it led NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Jones for an unprecedented entire season.

Like most NFL fiasco's, this one starts in a strip club.

He and pop star Nelly were "making it rain," a phrase coined for the act of throwing dozens of bills into the air and onto the stage, presumably to show the patrons and strippers in the establishment that one has money to burn.

When the girls started to pick up this bounty however, a violent altercation ensued including reports that Jones grabbed one of the women and slammed her head into the stage.  Later, one of Jones' entourage returned and fired "payback" shots into the club, injuring three people and leading to the permanent paralysis of professional wrestler Tommy Urbanski.

Though Jones couldn't be directly tied to the shooting incident, the fact remains that his associates were, and when he was subsequently found to have paid $15,000 to various people associated with encounter (presumably to garner favorable testimony) his image was tarnished further.

Beyond this, there have been a number of other charges brought against Pacman that may indicate an irrefutable dark side including: assault charges, more disturbing relations with women (including spitting in their faces), public intoxication, and another strip club shooting incident involving his notorious entourage.

There's no denying the shadow and the question remains whether it can be exposed to the light.

In this context, Jones would have to prove that he's put in some serious time looking into the roots of these character flaws if he ever hopes to put them behind him and move on with his NFL career.  Has he done that?

Any interview the Detroit Lions conducted with him would have to heavily weight the answer to that question.

The Cyan Ghost: Fickle

And perhaps this is what it all comes down to.  Though the cyan ghost has an American name of "bashful", the Japanese word is more akin to "fickle," and to me there is probably not a more apt approximation of the Pacman enigma.

Pacman Jones, the fickle talent.

On one hand we have the speedster with ball hawking skills and elusive runback ability; on the other we have a scarred persona carrying the burden of a past not easily exorcised.

There is little doubt that Adam "Pacman" Jones the talent would be a worthy addition to a Lions team looking to upgrade their secondary and return game.

There is little doubt that the acquisition of Jones would be yet another intriguing free agent decision that would give the Lions even more leeway come draft time.

There is little doubt that Jones is a proven NFL caliber talent.

And yet there's doubt all the same.

Personally, I would be all for bringing the troubled DB aboard pending the outcome of his interviews as I think he could help the team.

Any contract he signed would have to be incentive laden and full of behavioral clauses that could allow him to be cut at the slightest malfeasance.

When framed that way it seems that it would be a no risk situation, but let's not fool ourselves: particularly on a young team like the Lions, a cancer can spread quickly if not quelled.

And at this point is it worth endangering all the strides the Lions have made?

Fickle indeed.

The cyan ghost keeps us guessing, but if you consider that this ghost most resembles the Detroit Lion Honolulu Blue, then maybe, just maybe, Pacman Jones does belong in the motor city after all.


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