FOXBORO - One of the Patriots expected to fill in for Vince Wilfork going forward is rookie Chris Jones.
You may be asking, "Who the heck is Chris Jones?" You wouldn't be alone.
Jones is a 6-foot-1, 309-pound defensive tackle who was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay on Sept. 12. He was active for the first time on Sunday night in Atlanta, and when Wilfork suffered a torn right Achilles' tendon early in the 30-23 New England victory, Jones and Joe Vellano drew the majority of snaps at Wilfork's position for the rest of the evening.
"I just went in there and just played football," Jones said in front of his Gillette Stadium locker earlier in the week. "I practiced the whole week and just did what I did in practice in the game. Don't take any reps off. That's how you get better. I plan on doing that during Cincinnati, too."
While the average fan may not have a storehouse of information about Jones, Patriots' coach Bill Belichick apparently did. He had his eyes on the former Bowling Green lineman long before Jones had the chance to become a Patriot.
"We did all the players coming out of the draft and Chris was part of that process," Belichick said. "He ended up being drafted by Houston. We claimed him at the final cut, but Tampa had the priority and got him. When they, I guess, got in a roster bind and had to release him, we were able to claim him a second time."
Jones was a sixth-round pick of the Texans and spent nine days on the Buccaneers' roster before he was released a second time in the preseason.
"This is the third team, but I'm excited to finally be somewhere I can play," he said. "I'm excited because now we've got Cincinnati coming up. We get to go down there and get to play them."
He said he didn't let the disappointment of being waived twice deter him.
"There's some down times, obviously, getting rejected so many times," he said, "but I'm here now and I'm happy so I'm not going to complain. I'm happy in my situation right now."
Jones played 19 defensive snaps against Atlanta.
"That was great," he said. "To finally get some playing time was awesome. I was a little nervous at first and that kind of made things go by faster. They started to slow down and I got the hold of it and hopefully it can be a lot slower for Cincinnati for me."
Neither Jones nor Vellano share Wilfork's bulk, so it's likely that against the Bengals on Sunday (1 p.m.; Ch. 4, 12), they won't play on the nose; Tommy Kelly is a more likely candidate for that shift.
"I think when people look at us, Cincinnati will probably try and run the ball on us," Jones said. "We've just got to keep practicing and getting prepared for them."
In his short time with the Patriots, Jones found Wilfork to be a good mentor. Now, he hopes to apply those teachings to the field on a regular basis.
"Vince is a great leader," Jones said. "He's a great football player. Really, just sit back and watch him. He's a pretty quiet guy, but he's a great leader. He'll take me to the side and he's actually one of the first guys that came up to me and talked to me and introduced himself. So, great guy. He taught me a lot and I've learned a lot from just watching him.
"You can't really replace a player like Vince," he added, "but all we can do is just keep practicing hard and getting better a whole."