Tonawanda News — As a rookie, Jones had 18 catches for 213 yards and a touchdown in 15 games, including five starts. He finished with 82 catches for 887 yards and six touchdowns in 35 games over three years before the protein levels leaking from his kidneys began to spike. Jones was placed on Buffalo's reserve/nonfootball illness list in December.
The Bills and Jones never revealed what the illness was, but the player acknowledges now he was having difficulty dealing with the disease's symptoms, which included swollen hands and feet and bloody urine.
After being cut by the Bills in February, Jones signed with New England. It was during a visit with kidney specialist Gerald Appel last summer when the severity of Jones' condition was fully revealed. His kidney functions had deteriorated to a level where the only options were a transplant or dialysis.
"We tried a couple of things but it was just irreversible damage at that point," Appel said.
The next step was finding a match, which turned out to be Jones' father, Donald Jones II.
Barring complications, Appel is confident Jones will live a long and normal life, including the prospect of playing baseball.
"He is certainly not a quitter by any means," Appel said. "The first thing he talked to me about when he knew he needed a transplant was, 'Well, I can't play football, but could I play baseball?'"
Appel is not aware of anyone in baseball ever playing after a kidney transplant, but he's familiar with one in basketball.
Among Appel's patients is former NBA center Alonzo Mourning, who had the same disease. Mourning continued playing after kidney transplant surgery in 2003, and won a championship with Miami in 2006.
If Mourning can do it, why not Jones?
"You always want to make sure you can maximally protect the transplant, but I think we'll be able to figure out a way," Appel said. "If he puts his mind to it, he'll be able to do it. Determination is the big thing."