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New Viking Datone Jones' Goal: Reaching 'Maximum Potential'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — As Datone Jones prepared to hit free agency and answer pending suitors' questions, he asked himself one.

"How can they push me to reach my maximum potential?"

Jones liked what he had seen from nearby Green Bay and heard from sources within the Vikings about the opportunity to play for Head Coach Mike Zimmer and defensive line coach Andre Patterson in Minnesota.

Shortly after signing a one-year deal with the Vikings after four seasons with the Packers, Jones elaborated on the topic Tuesday during a conference call with members of the Twin Cities media.

"I feel like I have a great defensive line coach here in Minnesota that's going to do that," Jones said. "He's going to lay the platform out for me. I've just got to go and do the work."

Patterson arrived for his second tour in Minnesota in Zimmer's first season (2014).

No stranger to the Vikings, Jones noted the success that Minnesota's defensive linemen have had, citing the growth of two-time Pro Bowler Everson Griffen, and the surge made by Danielle Hunter in his second pro season, as well as the effectiveness of defensive tackles Linval Joseph, who appeared in his first Pro Bowl after the 2016 season, and Tom Johnson, a former journeyman whose career as flourished in the past three seasons.

"This is a great defense. I'm excited to be a part of this organization and ready to turn this chapter into the next chapter of my life and make it count," Jones said. "I'm looking forward to developing and playing with a great group of guys that's hungry and ready to get to the quarterback."

He later complimented former teammate Aaron Rodgers, whom he still considers a friend. The friendship will be temporarily suspended during Border Battles.

"Now, I've got a chance to chase Aaron, one of the best in the world," Jones said. "It's nothing like being able to play one of the best quarterbacks in the world. … Aaron knows I'm coming hungry."

Jones, who was selected with the 26th overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, played defensive end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker at varying times in Green Bay's 3-4 defense. He appeared in 59 games, including seven starts, totaling 80 tackles (58 solo) and 9.0 sacks.

The Vikings, however, use a 4-3 base alignment, which will likely enable Jones to focus his efforts on the defensive line. Rather than having to drop weight to be more fluid at linebacker, Jones said he expects to bulk up a little in Minnesota and will prepare to do whatever can best help the team.

Asked if he might tuck inside to play the 3-technique defensive tackle spot from time to time, Jones said, "I think I fit that role."

"I think Andre Patterson will do a great job," Jones said. "From what I've seen and what they've shown me, he's a technician. He has that knack for touching players and helping those players develop."

Jones formerly teamed with four Vikings at UCLA, spending overlapping time on campus with kicker Kai Forbath, long snapper Kevin McDermott and linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Jones and Barr were part of the same defense for one season, and Kendricks and Jones teamed together on that side of the ball two years.

Jones remained on a group text with Barr and Kendricks since leaving campus. Once the former Bruins linebackers found out that Jones was scheduled to visit the Vikings, they started pitching the program.

"I was getting excited, but I wanted to see for myself," Jones said.

"They've spoken so well about the organization and culture, the environment, the city, the type of people in the city, the players, our teammates," Jones said. "I've heard the stories, and now I get to put all of these faces with stories I've heard over the years."

Jones thanked the Packers organization, as well as the Vikings leadership for the new opportunity, from the Wilf family to General Manager Rick Spielman to Zimmer and Patterson. He also thanked his mother and wife for their support over the years and help while making the decision to sign with the Vikings.

"[My wife] helped me make this decision, and without her, I'd be lost," Jones said. "I had a long talk with her and with my mom. My strongest supporters in the world are my mom and my wife."

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