Aaron Jones hasn’t carried the ball in any of last six practices for the Green Bay Packers. It’s been nine for Jamaal Williams, as both of them are battling hamstring injuries that have forced the Packers to slog through training camp without two of their top options at running back.
Something had to give eventually.
General manager Brian Gutekunst announced Tuesday the Packers had claimed former Texas A&M running back Keith Ford off of waivers from the Indianapolis Colts along with waiving injured offensive tackle Jason Spriggs.
Ford, who will wear No. 27 for the Packers, joins a shrinking stable of Green Bay rushers that includes two rookies — Dexter Williams and Darrin Hall — along with Corey Grant and fullbacks Danny Vitale and Malcolm Johnson among its five healthy members.
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Ford signed as an undrafted free agent in May 2018 with Buffalo, where he worked away on the Bills’ practices squad for much of last season.
But on Dec. 12, three days after the Bills had lost in the final minutes at home to the New York Jets — in the process also losing running backs LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory to injuries — Ford was signed to the active roster and thrown into the action.
Ford was the only healthy back left standing by the early second quarter of his debut game that next Sunday after Marcus Murphy exited the game with an arm injury, and he got his rookie moment: rushing 14 times for 46 yards while making one catch for seven years.
But the Bills released him nearly a year to the date of his original signing. He joined the Colts’ 90-man roster in late June before they cut him loose Monday.
Prior to his NFL days, Ford bounced around to teams in college, too. He played limited snaps for two seasons at Oklahoma from 2013-14 before transferring to Texas A&M and sitting out the 2015 season.
Once free to play for the Aggies, though, Ford scored the first touchdown of their season and quickly became a regular piece of their backfield. He played in all 26 games over his final two years, taking 265 carries for 1,217 yards and 18 touchdowns and catching 19 passes for an impressive 165 yards to help them to bowl eligibility each season.
Packers’ Backfield Problems Persist
Proving himself in training camp isn’t something foreign to Ford, as his work ethic and devotion helped win him respect in Buffalo. But the Packers need, first and foremost, bodies to fill in on reps and drills in practice with Jones or Williams absent.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur downplayed Jones’ injury after he missed his first practice last Wednesday, saying: “He’s going to be an important part of our football team, so we need him to be fresh and healthy and so we were a little cautious with him (Wednesday).”
The importance Jones is understandable, as LaFleur’s offense could set him up for a breakout season out of the Green Bay backfield. Enough of the same could be said about a healthy Williams, who has carried the ball at least 100 times in each of the last seasons for the Packers.
Caution seems wise in the case of both players, but the question now is whether the Packers being cautious will be enough or if they might wind up facing the start of the regular season with a roster of especially inexperienced running backs.