Chandler Jones stepped into Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center for the first time Thursday afternoon.
With his 6-foot-5 frame towering over those he met, he took time to observe his new home. This offseason, the All-Pro edge rusher had to take some time contemplating and praying over where he'd go next. A daunting decision to make for a man testing free agency for the first time in his 10-year NFL career.
"When the season first ended, that's when the nerves dropped a little bit because I had no clue," Jones expressed in his first press conference as a Raider. "Then when I realized and got the opportunity to sit back and self scout and look back at what I done this previous season, I knew I had a little chance to say, 'I can do this, I'm good.'"
There were several things that helped Jones reach his final decision, including having a head coach, general manager and defensive coordinator in place that he's comfortable with. Nevertheless, after his first moments of observing his surroundings and the "electric" feeling that came over him trying on the iconic silver helmet with the shield, he felt more sure of his decision than ever before.
"I wanted to know obviously the front office, the players, the culture, the location. This place crossed everything. It dotted all I's, it crossed every T," continued Jones, "and like I said, the culture. Just being around here, being around the guys – when I walked in the building and met everyone it just felt like home."
Shortly after Jones made his decision, his new teammate Maxx Crosby took no time to reach out to him via FaceTime. The two had already developed a relationship, as they've admired each other's game from afar. Crosby's success as an edge rusher, along with his new extension, further assisted Jones in making the decision to sign with Las Vegas.
"When me and Maxx talk, we small talk. We texted even before I knew I was going to be here," Jones told Raiders.com. "When you talk to another pass rusher, you always have that thought in the back of your head, 'What if? What if we played together? That would be fun.'
"Once I saw that there was an opportunity when I got into contract negations with the Raiders, I said, 'Wow this is a possibility.' That weighed a lot of my decision."
"This place crossed everything. It dotted all I's, it crossed every T." Chandler Jones
Another huge factor that played the part of Jones coming to the Raiders was the Silver and Black's new defensive coordinator. When Jones was selected in the first round of the 2012 Draft by the New England Patriots, Patrick Graham was the defensive line coach. The two got off to a great start together, with Jones recording six sacks, four pass deflections and three forced fumbles in his rookie season.
The two reunite for their first season in Las Vegas, with Graham now in charge of the defense. A couple of years has passed since the two were last together, but things seem to be lining up in place to duplicate the same results.
"When you have someone with the brain of Patrick Graham – the first word that comes to mind is creativity," Jones said. "This guy is an Ivy League graduate from Yale. So when you just talk about that in itself, you talk about how creative someone can be. Then when you bring it over to the sport of football, that's easy for him. That's X's and O's for him. He's so creative and to know that and be such a proven person, the sky's the limit."
The complexity of Jones and Graham's relationship goes beyond what happens inside of the 100 yards of grass. The way Graham looked after Jones as a young player in the league made an impression on him that still holds up today.
"They're not going to say, 'Hey, how's your leg holding up?', they're going to say, 'Hey, how's your family? How's your kid doing?'' And when you have a guy and you connect the players like that, it makes them play harder for you. They go that much more above and beyond to do what you're telling them to do. To do your scheme, to do what's right, to be disciplined, to stay in your gap, to execute.
"You start thinking, 'Hey, Pat Graham is a guy that cares about me. Let me do what he's telling me to do.'"
When it comes down to it, Jones can't accomplish much more as an individual player. He's a Super Bowl winner and has over 100 career sacks, with multiple Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. Jones' decision to come to Raiders is pretty simplistic at the heart of it.
He gets to be a part of a team with players that he wants to play with, under coaches he wants to be coached by, for a fanbase he's thrilled to play in front.
"I'm excited to get out and get in front of these fans so they can see what I can do."
View photos of new Raiders linebacker Chandler Jones in action. The four-time Pro Bowler has played in 139 games, recording 473 tackles, 107.5 sacks, 27 pass deflections, 33 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and one interception.