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Jacoby Jones almost played for Panthers, not Ravens

Baltimore Ravens All-Pro kick returner Jacoby Jones nearly missed out on the opportunity to return home to New Orleans for his first Super Bowl. Jones was leaning toward signing with the Carolina Panthers last spring before his agent convinced him to take one more free-agent visit to Baltimore.

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Jones was impressed with Cam Newton and former Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, and Carolina's offer was in the same neighborhood as the two-year, $7 million deal he eventually received from Baltimore. It wasn't until Jones met the respected Ravens veterans that he decided to change his allegiance.

"When I walked in the locker room, I was done. I was like, 'I'm signing,'" Jones said, via the Charlotte Observer. "How these guys act (toward) each other, it was like a family."

A perennial tease in five seasons with the Houston Texans, Jones led the league a with 30.7-yard average on kickoffs while throwing in three combined touchdowns on returns. He's the "best kick returner in the NFL right now," acknowledged San Francisco 49ers special teams assistant Tracy Smith.

The Niners can't sleep on Jones' receiving ability, either. If not for his last-minute 70-yard touchdown catch at Denver, the Ravens wouldn't be playing on Sunday.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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