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Carolina Panthers

Deion Jones makes NFC South return, this time at Carolina

Luke Kuechly, Deion Jones

SPARTANBURG – Deion Jones has familiarity with the Panthers. He just hadn't been on this side before.

That changed Tuesday, when the former Atlanta Falcon suited up in blue and went through his first training camp practice at Wofford.

"(It was) always a good game in Atlanta and out here," Jones said of his Panthers-Falcons memories. "Looking forward to the rivalries of the NFC South, getting back at the teams, playing the Bucs, Saints, Falcons, getting back into the swing of things."

He's not the only one who had a blast from the past upon his return. 

Luke Kuechly, familiar with Jones from his career here, walked up to the fellow linebacker during practice and embraced him on the sideline, quipping, "Good to see you finally in the right color." 

Jones signed with Carolina for his eighth NFL season, spending the first six years of his career in Atlanta and 2022 in Cleveland. He said making the move felt natural.

"Man, everything just made sense," Jones said. "They made me feel welcome, giving me an opportunity. I'm just ready to get back to ball, get back playing, get back flying around."

Deion Jones

Jones was a second-round pick to Atlanta in 2016, recording 108 tackles, 11 passes defended, three interceptions, and two touchdowns when the Falcons made a Super Bowl run in his rookie year. He earned one Pro Bowl nod and eventually made his way to the Browns in October 2022, recording 44 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three passes defended, and one interception in Cleveland. 

"He's a playmaker," head coach Frank Reich said. "He's been a consistent playmaker. He's had production – athletic guy, smart guy. 

"Listen, we've got to get to know him. But everything we know, he'll be a good teammate. Obviously, culture is really important to us, team-first mentality." 

Jones said last year's in-season move helped him learn how to adjust on the fly, and he's already putting in work to get to know the Panthers' playbook and new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero's 3-4 base scheme.

"(It) helped me on the good transition," Jones said. "Meet new people, learn the playbook quick, and get a system to getting all that down. So far, so good."

Shaq Thompson, Deion Jones, Jeremy Chinn

He'll bring experience to Carolina's linebacking corps, which includes stalwart Shaq Thompson, rising star Frankie Luvu, flashy free-agent addition Kamu Grugier-Hill, and last year's fourth-round draft pick Brandon Smith.

Jones said he remembered watching Thompson play while they were divisional opponents, paying attention to his speed and how he attacked the ball, and he's tried to add those elements into his own game. 

He's also suited up in No. 53 here – Brian Burns' old number before the 0 – though he said it's just the number they had available for him. 

Even though it's early, Jones said it feels like he's at a good spot in Carolina – joining forces with the old rival. 

"The coaching staff, team, the way they made me feel welcome, (it) seemed like a good locker room," he said. "I'm trying to fit in where I can fit in."

View photos of players arriving to practice on Tuesday.

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