ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Defensive tackle D.J. Jones is known for his fast hands, quickness off the ball and ability to stop the run. Now he has a new skill to add to his repertoire: dad strength.
Jones missed several days of practice last week as he recovered from a minor back injury, but his absence wasn't just for rest. On Saturday, Jones and his wife, Kayla, posted on Instagram to announce the birth of their first child.
Jones noted that Kayla and their daughter, who was born on Aug. 4, are both in good health. Upon returning to UCHealth Training Center on Monday, Jones received an outpouring of support and excitement from his teammates and coaches.
"Everybody was happy for me," Jones said. "Asking name, weight. [It's] all new to me, but it's an exciting time for me and my family."
Fellow defensive lineman Mike Purcell was especially elated for Jones. As a father himself, Purcell understands what it's like to become a parent for the first time.
"You never know what to expect until it happens yourself," Purcell said. "To actually have your own kid … it'll change everything."
For Jones, becoming a father will certainly bring changes to his off-field life — particularly the amount of sleep he gets each night. But on the field, the birth of his daughter means he now has even more to play for.
"She's my purpose," Jones said of his daughter. "My family's my purpose, this team is my purpose."
Playing for the people he cares about most — his daughter, his wife, his parents, his siblings and his teammates — is what fuels Jones to perform to his highest potential. In his introductory press conference on his first day as a Bronco, he became emotional talking about the importance of his new three-year contract. To Jones, his payday meant that he could provide financial stability for his family.
Taking care of his loved ones has always been Jones' motivation on the field, and that sense of purpose is even stronger as a new father.
With a newborn daughter to play for, Jones will look to bring his dad strength to the defensive line in 2022. The Broncos signed Jones in free agency over the offseason with the goal of revamping the team's ability to stop the run, and Jones plans to do just that.
"My profession, what I do, is I stop the run," Jones said. "Whether you're on the goal line, midfield, it don't matter. I take pride in stopping the run and helping my teammates to stop the run just like me. We've got some great players and I'm excited to see what we can do."
Purcell, who took many snaps in Jones' place with the starting unit during his absence, had high praise for Jones and what he can bring to the Broncos' defense.
"He's a hell of a player," Purcell said. "I've seen him ever since he came into the league. He came [to San Francisco] the year I left, and to see what he's become, the [explosiveness] and versatility that he has, flexibility, all of that — it's amazing to see what his power is."
As the first preseason game approaches, Jones is not too concerned with whether he'll get playing time. As a sixth-year veteran, he's seen bright lights and packed stadiums many times before. No matter what Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett decides to do, Jones is all for it.
"I'll do whatever they need me to do," Jones said. "If they put me out there, I'll be out there. If not, I'll be on the sideline cheering my guys on."
With a days-old baby at home and a different logo on his jersey, Jones has started two new chapters of his life this season. As he embarks on these journeys simultaneously, he will look to become both the best teammate and the best father he can be.