Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones didn't rule out the possibility he would play in the 2023 season opener against the Detroit Lions on Thursday night despite his summer-long holdout.
Jones, 29, told reporters Wednesday at a promotional event for the Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City, "I could be playing, I could be on the sidelines” for the game. He also said a "hold-in" — meaning Jones showing up for practice but not participating in drills — would have been a distraction for the offseason. As for his conditioning, the veteran said that he works out twice a day and would be ready to play Thursday night if needed.
Chris Jones talking to KC media at Ronald McDonald House Charities: “ pic.twitter.com/lWLkXy6R9L
— Sam McDowell (@SamMcDowell11) September 6, 2023
Jones skipped the Chiefs' first practice before their Week 1 game this past Sunday and has held out the entire offseason in search a contract that would reportedly make him the second-highest-paid player at his position, behind the Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald's $31.6 million average annual salary. While Jones and the Chiefs haven't provided many updates in terms of negotiations, Jones tweeted that he'd wait until Week 8 to return to the team if he can't get a new deal sooner and that he can afford the exorbitant fines that would come with a lengthly absence.
"If a deal gets done," Jones added Wednesday, "I can be out there tomorrow."
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce more or less begged Jones to come back before the season on his podcast:
"Please, we need you. We need you bad," Kelce said. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, meanwhile, said he's prepared "to play the game with the guys that are in the building and let the front office handle that." Head coach Andy Reid also refused to give updates over the past week.
Jones is in the final year of a four-year, $80 million deal he signed with Kansas City in 2020, per Over The Cap. His $20 million annual salary ranks ninth among defensive tackles after huge deals for players like Quinnen Williams (New York Jets), Jeffery Simmons (Tennessee Titans), Daron Payne (Washington Commanders), Dexter Lawrence (New York Giants) and Javon Hargrave (San Francisco 49ers), according to Over The Cap.
Jones ranks first in sacks, first in quarterback hits, second in forced fumbles and fifth in tackles for loss among all defensive tackles since 2020.
The clock is ticking for Jones and the Chiefs.