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, Ga. (AP) Even Julio Jones was caught off
guard when someone mentioned all the various body parts he’s had to nurse back
to health this season.

Ribs. Thumb. Knee. Hip. Back. Ankle.

The ankle twice, in fact.

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”Whew! All that?” he asked, sounding a bit incredulous.

Then, with a slight smile and shaking his head, Jones added, ”Long season,
man. Long season.”

He’s got a routine to cope with all the aches and pains.

During the week, Jones is often limited in practice or doesn’t even take the
field. But by the time the game rolls around, he’s always ready to go.

”He has a real process to do that,” coach Dan Quinn said. ”We’re fortunate
that he’s played with injuries and kind of knows the routine of how to do
it.”

That will be the case again for Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game
against the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles .

After sitting out two days of practice with a sore ankle and going through a
limited routine Thursday at the final full workout before the game Cheap
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, the star receiver will be in the starting
lineup for the 18th consecutive time this season.

”The thing with being injured, it’s really just blocking it out,” Jones said.
”Don’t use it as an excuse.”

Quinn noted that the Falcons usually have an extensive walk-through before
each practice, and that’s a session that Jones rarely misses no matter how much
he’s hurting. He uses the time to get familiar with the game plan, run some
routes and hone his timing with quarterback Matt Ryan.

If Jones is limited during the actual practice, he focuses on plays in which
he’ll likely be the primary receiver.

”We try to feature him on plays that are unique for him and Matt to be at
full speed,” Quinn said. ”When he goes, it’s these full-speed, aggressive
routes. So that helps him as far as the timing goes.”

Jones has been on the injury report eight of the last 10 weeks, along with
two other weeks early in the season.

None of the injuries were serious enough to keep him from playing Cheap
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, but they did require plenty of tender loving
care to make sure there were no setbacks. That’s why, over the course of the
last four months, the injury report has listed him as limited or out of practice
more times than he’s fully participated.

Game day is a different story.

”If you say you’re gonna go, go. Don’t bring it up in the middle of the
game,” he said. ”We know it hurts. Don’t let your mind be negative. Just stay
positive. If something’s hurting or anything like that, I never relay it back to
(the sideline). I know it hurts. You don’t want to talk about it and bring that
stuff up during the game. If I suit up, I’m going. I’m not saying anything about
it.”

A turning point in Jones’ pain threshold came during his sophomore season at
Alabama. He broke his left hand in a game, had surgery the next day and was
cleared to play the following week.

He wasn’t at his best.

”I was a little timid to catch just because of the pain,” Jones recalled. ”It
was messing with me mentally.”

Since then, he’s learned to block out his various injuries.

”It’s gonna hurt Cheap
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,” Jones said. ”But I’m out here. I made the
decision to be out here. I don’t care about it hurting.”

Jones’ production dipped this season, part of a wider drop-off under
first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, and there have been a few more
drops than previous seasons – most notably, what should have been an easy
39-yard touchdown catch in a November loss at Carolina .

But, overall, it’s been another huge season for Jones. He had 88 catches for
1,444 yards – an average of 90.3 per game – and earned second-team honors on The
Associated Press All-Pro team.

He’s usually even better in the playoffs.

Last week, he had nine catches for 94 yards and a touchdown with just under 6
minutes remaining that finished off a 26-13 upset of the Los Angeles Rams in the
wild-card round.

”It’s win or go home,” Jones said. ”I’m not a numbers guy. Whatever it takes
to get the win.”

Jones also got to do a bit of gloating this week after his alma mater won
another national championship with a 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia.

Not that he had any doubt about the outcome. Jones didn’t attend the game,
even though it was held at the Falcons’ home stadium Cheap
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, and insisted that he went to bed before
halftime.

”I was out,” he said. ”I didn’t learn (the score) until the next morning. I
was like, `Oh, that was a good game.”’

Someone noticed he wasn’t wearing any Alabama gear.

No need to rub it in, he quipped.

”When you’re accustomed to things,” Jones said, trying to hold back a smile,
”you don’t brag.”

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work
can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul newberryimage

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