It took until the 10th day of August for Aaron Jones to reappear on the practice fields at the training camp after nagging hamstring tightness caused the Green Bay Packers to tread lightly with their star running back.
They continued to exercise caution last Thursday night with both Jones and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers (back) while the remaining starters saw at least one series in a loss at the Baltimore Ravens, a game where four rushers combined for 55 yards all night.
But this Thursday? Jones is ready to roll.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said Tuesday that Jones will make his preseason debut and play a “series or so” when the team travels to Winnipeg for an international exhibition against the Oakland Raiders at 7 p.m. CT.
Jones finished last season on the injury reserve after a knee injury stopped short a run that might have seen him eclipse 1,000 rushing yards. He missed the final two games as well as the first two with a suspension but still managed 5.5 yards per carry in the final year of the Mike McCarthy regime. Under LaFleur and the new offense, though, many have Jones pegged as a good bet for a breakout candidate this season in Green Bay.
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Will the Injury Bother Jones?
Well, that is sort of an interesting question, considering Jones wouldn’t even classify the hamstring tightness that held him out for more than a week as an injury.
“It was just a little tight, a little tightness,” Jones told reporters when asked about his hamstring after his return to practice on Aug. 10. He did add that it “felt good” to have his helmet and shoulder pads on and be running around with his teammates.
Jones was also asked about whether limited preseason work would hurt his build-up to the regular season, or if there was a specific number of reps or workouts he had in mind that would be the minimum necessary to be at 100 percent.
Reasonable questions for a rusher who, entering his third NFL season, has missed four games each year with injuries. A surgery-requiring ankle injury also ruined one of his college seasons back at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“Just enough to be ready, Jones said. “I don’t know what a certain number is, but just enough so that I feel comfortable.”
Strength in Numbers
Jones didn’t waste his time on the sidelines sulking, but he admitted having Jamaal Williams there with him helped the experience along. The fellow running back missed even more time with a hamstring injury and was out of pads every day Jones was.
“We’re just sitting on the sideline the whole time, talking football, what we see, trying to coach up the young guys,” Jones said. “It did definitely made it easier having my roll dog in there with me, grinding through it.”
Better than working with Williams on the sideline, though? Having him back in practice, where the Packers’ No. 2 rusher was finally back in full pads Monday afternoon.
Whether Williams will also play when the Packers travel to Canada on Thursday night is uncertain at the moment, but the return of both he and Jones could signal fewer reps for rookie Dexter Williams. He has been consistent through the preseason, taking three carries for five yards against the Ravens after 14 for 62 yards against the Texans, but should still qualify for a 53-man roster spot behind Jones and Williams.