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Chandler Jones feeling 'faster' and 'stronger' going into 12th NFL season

It's been an interesting offseason for Chandler Jones.

Following a game-winning fumble recovery for a touchdown against the New England Patriots in 2022, he suffered an elbow injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Eve. He was forced out of action for the remaining two games of the season.

The edge rusher, now going into his 12th NFL season, has spent the past few months rehabbing his elbow and spending time with his family. He was in attendance at UFC 285 at T-Mobile Arena back in March to see his older brother, Jon Jones, win the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship. He holds a close relationship with Jon, telling local media Thursday he gets more nervous for his brother's fights than he does his own football games.

At 33 years old, Jones seems as motivated as ever to continue to uphold the family dominance within sports. The four-time Pro Bowler shed some weight while training and rehabbing this offseason, placing him around 250-255 pounds at the moment. He says he's in the process of adding back muscle to his frame, however he could very well play at his current weight during the season with the way he's feeling in OTAs.

"I'm happy about it being a new season, a fresh start, a new set of guys, a new group of guys," he said. "I'll speak for myself as far as where I am. I'm a little lighter this year, I feel a little faster, a little bit stronger, but I'm just trying to perfect my craft."

"I kind of took my time as opposed to just jumping into weights and trying to gain muscle right away," he added. "Got back healthy, then I started working out, lifting, and that's where I am. I'm kind of just building muscle right now. You kind of just shed the leaves off the tree and then growing them back on."

The Raiders added a few edge rushers in the offseason including first-round pick Tyree Wilson and undrafted rookie Adam Plant from UNLV. While these players are competing for their roster spot against Jones, the veteran leader puts pressure on himself to help the younger defenders around him progress.

"These guys are young and they have such a high ceiling. They can go so far. I was just saying this the other day, I wish I had when I was a young player - I had Vince Wilfork, but he wasn't much of a pass rusher - but I wish I had a Maxx Crosby, a Chandler Jones in my room as a rookie. It's our job as a player to pass that down, and the things that we can share to these guys – we're just excited for these players for sure."

This mentality is why Patrick Graham considers Jones one of the top players he's coached. The duo first met Jones' rookie year when Graham served as defensive line coach for the Patriots. In Graham's second season as the Raiders defensive coordinator, his relationship with Jones has evolved from more than just a player/coach dynamic. The two consider each friends as well.

"[T]he sky is the limit with Chan," Graham said. "Chan, the things he did last year in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback, playing the run, I'm just so proud of him because you've got to remember, I coached him as a rookie and then Brendan Daly had him after that and then he went to Arizona and you just see the growth of a true technician, a true professional in terms of the way he can explain the game, the way he executes out there, the way he can see it and his leadership ability. ... He's a great player who's been doing it for a long time. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens."

It's yet to be seen what will happen next, but with Maxx Crosby on the other side of the defensive line, the sky is truly the limit for Jones. He's totaled a career 112 sacks, and his love for the game hasn't withered.

"There's still goals that I would like to have – team goals and individual goals. It would be a little bitter to kind of not get them because I still feel great," said Jones. "So, that's all. I love being here. I love OTAs, I don't think I've missed one in 12 years. I think this is my 12th OTA and it's fun."

View the best photos from the second week of the Las Vegas Raiders' OTAs at Intermountain Health Performance Center.

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