TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On a scale of one to 10, the pain is about a five or six.
Judging from his play Saturday, Julio Jones doesn’t seem too affected by the broken bone in his left hand.
But make no mistake, every time the ball reaches his left palm, he feels it.
“Oh yeah, my hand hurts every time I catch the ball,” Jones said.
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Catching 12 passes for a school-record 221 yards Saturday against Tennessee is just his latest defiance of pain as the seventh-ranked Crimson Tide’s leading receiver continues adding to his legacy as one of the program’s most decorated pass catchers.
The 18-inch scar that tops Jones’ left hand is the only visible evidence of the surgery that left a plate and screws in there for good, he said Tuesday.
But for a receiver to play through a broken bone in his hand is on par with a singer performing through a cold. There wasn’t a doubt in Jones’ mind: He wasn’t going to sit this one out.
“He came to me on Sunday,” coach Nick Saban said of the week preceding the Tennessee game. “I wanted to talk to him about his hand going into the week, and his response to me was, ‘I don’t want to be held out of anything. I want to practice and do everything. I need to practice and do everything if I’m going to play well in the game.’ I thought he practiced like he always practices.”
Against South Carolina, the owner of the program’s second-highest receiving yard total played almost the whole game with the broken bone that he kept a secret from almost everybody.
It happened when he caught a pass along the sideline and a Gamecock ripped off his helmet. He stayed in one more play to block before returning to the bench.
“I pushed down on my hand, and I knew it was broken,” he said. “I told the strength coach (Scott) Cochran, ‘I think I broke my hand.’ But I told him to not to tell nobody. I was going to wait until halftime and see.”
He went on to catch seven more passes and finished with 118 yards that afternoon.
The pain was more manageable by Saturday in Knoxville when he faced something he wasn’t used to.
Focusing on stopping the run, the Vols left Jones in man-to-man coverage when he was more accustomed to double teams with safeties helping guard against the deep threat.
And quarterback Greg McElroy recognized it.
“I think I realized that the second play of the game,” McElroy said. “ I wouldn’t say it was disrespect, but anytime they press Julio without a safety over the top, it’s kind of, ‘What are you doing?’ That’s kind of what I’m thinking in my head. Then again, they did it, and the chances were there to be madem and he did a great job of swimming and getting past the stack of the defender. We were able to put it over the top so I think it’s a credit to him.”
So does Jones see any disrespect?
“Oh, yes sir,” said Jones who has 45 catches for 669 yards this season. “ Just put it anywhere, and I’ll try to make a play on it.”