The radio host, who won season 27 with pro partner Sharna Burgess, exclusively spoke with ET on Tuesday, where he discussed everything from the new cast lineup to format tweaks and more.
"I have all these little injuries from this show that I don't think people realize. I had a broken foot, torn shoulder, but at this point, I'm finally healed up," he shared when asked how he's been doing since dance rehearsals wrapped. "It took a whole year, but it was worth it!"
Bones confirmed to ET that he'll back in the ballroom next Monday for the two-hour season 28 premiere. While he's pumped about the competition, he admitted that he was just as surprised as fans to learn that Burgess (along with fellow fan-favorite Artem Chigvintsev) were cut as pros this season. He said he spoke with his former partner a few days before the cast reveal on Good Morning America last month.
"As a dancer, you kind of report and meet your partner [beforehand]," Bones shared. "So I hit her up three or four days before and said, 'Hey, who's your partner?' and she said, 'I don't know.' The next day she hit me up and was like, 'I don't have a partner. They didn't ask me to come back.' I was shocked, she was shocked. It was really close to the show and then we saw Artem didn't get asked back as well."
"I think all of us were a little stunned by it," he continued. "Now why [she was cut], I don't really know. I don't even know if they've told her. She had been there the longest and was one of the more popular ones, so it could have been a budget thing. I'm not really quite sure how that happened but everyone was shocked by it."
In case you missed it, Bones received some backlash from longtime fans of the show last season for going rogue on the choreography and winning the season over stars like Milo Manheim and Alexis Ren, who consistently received higher scores from the judges each week.
While Bones doesn't believe last season's controversies had anything to do with Burgess being cut, he thinks they probably opened the door for the new format tweaks ABC has planned.
"Well, I'm going back next week and Artem didn't get cut because of any backlash, so it really had nothing to do with that," Bones said. "I actually called and asked them. Like, 'Hey!' But actually, they were able to use our win to get celebrities this season. If anything, the network, to me, was like, 'We're really happy you won because we were able to reach out to people who would have never come on the show because they couldn't dance. And we were able to go, 'Hey, here's a guy who couldn't dance and won.'"
"I'm happy that we broke the system," he added of the format changes. "So, I think it's great. It's been on for 27 seasons, so it's cool to actually move around. And I love the team there, so I'm pumped!"
With the new 28th season ahead, Bones said it's also time for people to stop hating and let any backlash go.
"I have a humongous mirrorball in my living room that I look at and kiss every night before I go to bed. If anything, I think me winning last year showed a lot of people and celebrities that you don't have to be a great dancer to win. You have to learn how to dance, but you also have to be great at engaging with the audience," he said. "The backlash we still get is only from the people who are way too obsessed with that show. The hardcore Dancing With the Stars people, they need to get over it. Everybody else, all my people and the silent majority, we're in it together. We rock! They all need to shut up."
Although Bones isn't exactly ready to give up his "reigning mirrorball champion" title just yet, he told us he'll be rooting for his country music pal (and former American Idol alum), Lauren Alaina.
"I have the mirrorball, they can't take the actual mirrorball," he joked. "And who knows, I may come back. They haven't said who the mystery dancer is yet."
"As much as we kid around about the backlash and all of that, I love that show and I love the people, so I said, 'Lauren, you have to do it. It's awesome, and the fans are so passionate about it,'" he continued. "I stayed on her for a good two months and she agreed to do it. I've spoken to her almost every day at this point. Lauren's an athlete, so she won't go on with the most dance experience, but she has a great personality. People watching the show will love her, and she'll end up being a pretty good dancer, for sure."
Bones is especially excited for fans to get to know Alaina on a deeper, more personal level as she kicks off her DWTS journey. That typically happens during "Most Memorable Year" week, in which the stars are challenged to tell an impactful story that had a massive impact on their life through dance.
"I know she won't share the American Idol stuff. I mean, not that she doesn't want to, but I know what she's probably going to share, so I'm not going to speak on that because I'm going to let her have that moment," he teased. "But she had some tough times, as of recent, and I think that she's a really strong person and has really come through a lot. And if I know Lauren, she's going to put it all out there."
When the competition officially kicks off, Bones said he'll, of course, be rooting for Alaina, but will also be cheering on a few other dancers.
"I'm Team Lauren, 100%. But Kate Flannery sent me a message because I'm such a fan of The Office," he revealed. "It's my favorite show, so when Meredith sends you a message on Instagram, you're like, 'Holy crap, this is crazy!'"
"I know Hannah [Brown], too," he added. "I've been talking to Hannah a little bit about Dancing With the Stars as well, so there a few of them on there that I've talked to about it. Most of the advice I've given them is, not dance tips, but more like, 'Here's how you're going to feel and how it's going to affect you, and just know that you're not alone.'"
Aside from his continued support for DWTS, Bones is currently gearing up for the new season of American Idol, in which he'll return as an in-house mentor alongside judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie. Bones has also been enjoying plenty of one-on-one time with his new pup, Stanley, whom he recently adopted and named after another character from The Office.
"I'm a single dog dad, and it's been great! One of my friends was like, 'We have a dog, and nobody wants him. He's a little out of control so people have been hesitant to take him,'" Bones explained. "He asked if I wanted him and sent me a picture of him. I said, 'He looks like Stanley [Leslie David Baker] from The Office, so I'll take him.'"
"My other dog was 16 when he passed away, so I forgot just how demanding a puppy is," he continued. "They have to pee all the time, and if you're not there when they have to pee, they pee anyway. But he's been good. We've finally broken up from chewing on everything. And all the Instagram likes has been a surprise. I don't hate that!"
For September's National Service Dog Awareness Month, Bones has teamed up with Purina Dog Chow for the "Service Dog Salute" campaign, a new partnership in which he assists American military veterans.
"I've been working with veterans on a wide range of things because that cause is so important to me. Even with the [Bobby Bones radio] show, we've been helping veterans get service dogs for the past three or four years," he shared. "What's wild is that they're quite expensive, around $20,000 apiece. That's a really heavy price to pay to help someone who has been a hero. So we got involved with Purina Dog Chow and it's the second year of this campaign. It was just a natural integration for something they do so well at and something that I'm really passionate about as well."
Bones is raising awareness in a number of ways, starting by informing his fans of the various reasons why veterans seek out service dogs.
"If you're a veteran and you see this program, or you know a veteran in your life, I found that a lot of people have questions about service dogs that have served and came back," Bones shared. "If you don't know what one really does or how they can get one, you can go to dogchow.com/service and that has plenty of information on the broader sense of things."
"Being a veteran, especially with post-traumatic stress disorder, is really difficult, to come home and try to reintegrate into this life that's so alien," veteran David Fuller added. "You go from this intensity, violence and then you're supposed to go to the store and buy groceries and try to be a normal person, and it just doesn't really work well. Having the service dog is sort of like a prosthetic. I didn't get my legs blown off in the military but a part of me was damaged in the same way inside my mind. Almost to the soul level. What my dog, Katie, does, she's the prosthetic for me in those areas so that I can be a good dad, I can go to the movies and to their sporting events and I can be present there without having a panic attack."
Dancing With the Stars returns with a two-hour premiere on Monday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. In the meantime, watch the video below to hear more on the new season.