Rooks: Camp 'weird' sans Chad Jones

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Many of the details from that late June morning are hazy now, perhaps because Jason Pierre-Paul blocked them out.

The New York Giants defensive end just remembers getting the type of phone call nobody wants to receive -- the one that comes so early on a Friday morning that something had to be wrong.

Chad Jones' girlfriend called Pierre-Paul to deliver the crushing news that his Giants' rookie roommate and close friend was in the emergency room, fighting for his life after a horrific car accident.

"No! That isn't true," said Pierre-Paul, whose voice still sounds in disbelief over a month later.

Pierre-Paul says he actually found out the news before the Giants did. So Pierre-Paul quickly dialed the phone numbers of his other rookie teammates -- Phillip Dillard and Linval Joseph.

A shocked Pierre-Paul told Dillard that Jones had been in a terrifying accident and then continued to ramble on almost hysterically.

"He said, 'Did you hear about Chad?' " Dillard said. "I was more scared because he wouldn't answer my question. Is he alive or is he not? And Jason wouldn't answer my question because he was too hysterical. I said, 'Is he alive?' He finally said, 'yeah' like 20 minutes later."

On June 25, Jones wrecked his SUV in the early morning hours in New Orleans and endured over eight hours of intensive surgery as doctors at LSU Public Hospital scrambled to save his left leg. The team's third-round pick out of Louisiana State has undergone several surgical procedures since and still faces more surgeries down the road with his football career in jeopardy.

Jones may not be here in Giants camp but he is not forgotten. Most rookies spend their first days in camp overwhelmed by their playbooks, learning new techniques and getting adjusted to the speed of the game while being hazed by veterans.

Pierre-Paul, Joseph and Dillard are trying to enjoy and soak in every moment because they know Jones would relish that opportunity.

"Showing up and he wasn't here ... it was very weird," Dillard said.

Jones was supposed to be Pierre-Paul's roommate just like he was during rookie minicamp. And Jones, Pierre-Paul and Dillard did everything together prior to the accident. From the end of May to the end of June, the rookies spent most of their free time together going to Best Buy or hanging out and shopping in the city. If Jones were here, they'd probably take trips together to the local mall.

Jones, Pierre-Paul, Dillard and Joseph were supposed to be a major part of the future foundation of the Giants defense. The team spent its first four picks in the 2010 draft on defense, selecting the freakishly athletic Pierre-Paul out of South Florida as their defensive end of the future with the 15th-overall pick. The Giants then took Joseph, the powerful defensive tackle from East Carolina, in the second round to plug the middle for years to come. Jones, the former two-sport athlete who won football and baseball national championships at LSU, was too much to pass over in the third round. Then they took Dillard, the linebacker out of Nebraska, in the fourth round to potentially be their future middle linebacker.

Naturally, all four became friends with their locker stalls next to one another in the middle of the Giants' locker room during offseason training.

On the day before Jones' accident, the rookies all said goodbye to one another at the team facility in East Rutherford, N.J. before scattering around the country to their hometowns for some rest before training camp in August.

Joseph went to Newark Airport with Jones before parting ways.

"Not even 24 hours [before the accident], I was telling him, 'Good luck, be safe,'" Joseph said. "I said, 'See you in a month.'"

Now the rookies text Jones and repeatedly encourage the safety to get better as he recovers in his home in Louisiana. Jones usually says thanks and tells his friends to practice hard. Pierre-Paul says his former roommate is in good spirits and has talked about playing football again.

For now, Pierre-Paul, Dillard and Joseph just want Jones to concentrate on getting better. And they don't forget the lesson learned from Jones' accident.

"It can be gone the next day," Pierre-Paul said. "Just live for the moment, not for tomorrow. You can have all today and then it is gone tomorrow. Just go out and practice hard every time you get a chance and never take it for granted."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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