Welcome to The Last Word with Dave Spadaro, a question-and-answer feature that runs weekly and highlights some of the provocative players, coaches and faces who have shaped this Eagles franchise. Today: Eagles punter Donnie Jones, who is in his 12th NFL season and kicking the ball better than ever.
Dave Spadaro: What's the weather forecast for New England on Sunday?
Donnie Jones: The weather forecast for New England on Sunday is temperature in the low 50s, sunny and low winds.
DS: I imagine that you know the expected weather for each game days in advance. How does that work?
DJ: I check every week. There is no particular day, but I look at it and I have an expectation for what the weather is going to be.
DS: What bothers you the most when it comes to weather?
DJ: I'm usually looking for wind.
DS: At what point does wind become a factor?
DJ: It has to get to around or over 10 mph. But you never know. Sometimes the forecast is for "winds light and variable." And then you get into the stadium and you're like, "I don't know who came up with 'light and variable,' because that's not what it feels like. As the winds get up there it can affect your drop and whether you should push it a little more inside or a little more outside. Whenever there is wind, 10 miles an hour with the wind and maybe you have to hold the ball a little bit longer.
DS: Welcome to December. It's getting colder, which has to have an impact, right?
DJ: The ball doesn't travel as far when it's cold. It doesn't compress as much on your foot as it does when it's a warm day. It puts a premium on making solid contact with ball.
DS: I'm looking at your résumé here, great career, all these years and some All-Pro awards, but no Pro Bowls. Does that bother you?
DJ: No Pro Bowl. Right. I will say honestly in 2008 it bothered me because I had a really good year (he averaged an NFL-high 50.0 yards per punt). We were first in gross average and second in net average, I think, and I did not go. Looking back on it now, it doesn't really matter to me. I just want our team to have success and whatever I can do to be a part of that matters more to me than going to the Pro Bowl.
DS: When in your life did you think that being a punter in the NFL was a realistic goal?
What did you do this offseason? Punter Donnie Jones and kicker Cody Parkey met golfing icon Arnold Palmer ...
DJ:** Probably after my senior year at LSU when I was selected to play in the Senior Bowl. It's the premier all-star game to play and I knew that I had a shot to get drafted at that time. Then you kind of start hearing things from your coach – I remember Nick Saban telling me he thought I could play at the next level. To think I'd be playing for 12 years? Never. No way.
DS: Did you grow up wanting to play in the NFL?
DJ: Not really. I remember being in college and watching the games with my then-girlfriend who is now my wife (Aubrie) thinking how cool it would be to play on Monday Night Football or Sunday Night Football.
DS: As a punter?
DS: As any position. Just to be out there playing. We thought it was so cool, like, "Those guys don't have homework. They can probably hang out after the game and do whatever. They definitely don't have to go to class the next day." I thought that would be pretty cool.
DS: Donnie, do you run into little kids who come up to you and say, "I want to be a punter in the NFL."?
DJ: Not often.
DS: But it literally has happened?
DJ: Umm. That's a great question, Dave. I can't say for sure that it has. My son (Weston) at times says he wants to do what dad does. But I think he's just saying that.
DS: What statistic is most important to you from an individual standpoint – gross yards punting, net yards punting or punts inside the 20-yard line?
DJ: I would say throw out gross. You have to kick well but it's not just about how far you kick them or how high you kick them. The placement of the punt is so important. I would say net average and punts inside the 20. You look at it statistically and there's a strong relationship between where an offense starts its drive and how likely it is to score. So, the farther back, the better.
We had a punt in Detroit, a 60-yarder. There was a holding against Detroit during the punt. So the penalty was assessed from where the guy caught the ball and it ended up being a 70-yard net. It doesn't go down that way in the stat book, but it was a big change of field position for us.
DS: You have punted 953 times in your NFL regular season games. Could you describe the physical attractiveness of your left foot?
DJ: (Laughing) My foot felt pretty good until I started doing the Aussie punt (used in pooch situations where punter kicks the point of the ball). I caught it on a cold day in the wrong spot a couple of years ago and after the game my foot was black and blue. You've got to be really careful not to kick it wrong.
Other than that, my leg feels great and I feel great.
DS: I ask because I wonder if you have a gigantic callous on the top of your left foot?
DJ: No. Actually I have calluses here (he holds up the first two fingers of his right hand). That's from getting down to hold on kicks. I get down and I push up on the ground before I get ready for the snap. As for my foot, sometimes I get bruises but they heal fine.
DS: So if you come out of your long NFL career and your only ailments are calluses on your two right knuckles, that's a pretty doggone great career.
DJ: It really is. I've been very fortunate in that regard. Some minor things, I've taken a few hits, but I'm a pretty lucky guy.