LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- For a three-year stretch from 2004-2006, Thomas Jones was the heart and soul of a Chicago Bears' offense that helped a stellar defense pave the way to back-to-back division titles and a trip to Super Bowl XLI.
A ferocious competitor on the field, Jones posted two consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Bears before being shipped off to the New York Jets before the 2007 campaign. As a member of the Jets, Jones continued his torrid pace and reached the 1,000-yard mark three straight times, including monster years in 2008 and 2009 when he scored a combined 27 rushing touchdowns.
Now in his second year with the Kansas City Chiefs, Jones, 33, is no longer a featured runner in Todd Haley's offense. Even with Chief's star rusher Jamaal Charles on injured reserve, Jones is splitting time with Dexter McCluster and Jackie Battle.
Regardless of how the Chiefs' depth chart looks, Bears defenders are taking Jones very seriously as they prepare to battle Kansas City on Sunday at Soldier Field.
"He's just a great professional," Bears defensive end Israel Idonije said on Thursday. "He brought a lot of value through his leadership and the way he kind of rallied the guys and brought everybody together. He's one of those guys who elevates everybody around him. You know he's going to get in and play hard, and run, he looks good on film. He's a talented guy, so it'll be fun to go up against him."
"He's one of those throwback players. He's a tough guy. He just comes to work and handle his business. He comes to work all the time, works hard and then shows up on Sunday and runs like a monster."
Jones has 10,402 career rushing yards, and is one of only two active players (LaDainian Tomlinson) to have reached the 10,000-yard mark.
"He was great, I loved Thomas when he was here," Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "He was also [NFL] class of 2000, so we were drafted in the same year. I think he was the No. 7 pick [of the Arizona Cardinals] and I was No. 9, so it's good to see him still in the league doing well.
"He was a great teammate and had some good times when we went to the Super Bowl when he was here. He's been doing well since he left. He's a good guy, good teammate and I still talk to him here and there. I've never played against him in 12 years, so it'll be fun playing against him."
Jones had 13 carries for 37 yards in the Chief's 13-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.