GREEN BAY – James Jones was released by two teams in a span of four months, yet the Packers couldn’t be happier to have him back.
That in itself sums up the “crazy business” that Jones referred to several times on Monday upon returning to Green Bay, where he played the first seven seasons of his career (2007-13).
The veteran wide receiver lasted just one year in Oakland and one training camp with the Giants, but he comes back to the Packers feeling like he’s “got a lot to give,” and it’s easy to understand his perspective, the recent setbacks notwithstanding.
He’s coming off a single-season career-high for receptions last year with the Raiders (73), and the two years prior to that he set career-bests in TD catches (14 in 2012) and receiving yards (817 in 2013) in Green Bay.
“I feel like I’m still playing at a high level,” Jones said. “I don’t necessarily feel like I’m falling off, but I have a lot of people to prove wrong.
“If there’s anytime to do it, it’s right now with the best quarterback in the league to help me out, so we’ll see how it goes and I’m excited about it.”
The Packers are pleased to get a veteran pass-catcher who can potentially play right away. Following Jordy Nelson’s season-ending knee injury, Randall Cobb was the only Green Bay receiver with more than one year of NFL experience.
Whether Jones steps right into the No. 3 role behind Cobb and second-year pro Davante Adams or begins as the fourth or fifth man amongst rookie Ty Mongtomery and second-year speedster Jeff Janis remains to be seen. Cobb (shoulder) and Montgomery (hamstring) are still recovering from preseason injuries.
As for getting up to speed quickly, Jones said “99 percent” of the playbook is the same. He just needs to talk to QB Aaron Rodgers about some of the new signals and re-establish the rapport that came from so much history together.
“That’s going to have to wait until we get out there on the field and see how the chemistry is,” Jones said. “I’ve only been gone for a year, so hopefully it ain’t too far gone and we can start connecting.”
Jones will be back in his old number, 89, which second-year tight end Richard Rodgers generously gave up. Rodgers, who will now wear No. 82, which he wore in high school and as a freshman at Cal, told Jones he had no ties to the number. He didn’t even try to negotiate anything for himself, though Jones, with his trademark smiling humor, said he wouldn’t have offered much anyway with “babies at home” to take care of.
“Whatever Rich needs, he’s got from me,” Jones said. “He’s a good dude on my part. We’re kind of like family because we’ve got the same agent.
“I appreciate him. Anytime he wants to go to dinner, needs a pair of shoes or something, need to pay for his haircut, anytime, I’m here to help him.”
Jones, of course, is here to help the Packers, and prevent Nelson’s injury from knocking off-kilter a high-powered offense and a team with title hopes. He knows exactly what he’s walking into, and what was just missed a year ago.
“I did watch the NFC Championship and I was sick to my stomach, man, just because all these dudes are brothers to me in here,” Jones said. “To see them lose a game that way, and I was just with them the year before, it hurt. It hurt, and I hurt for them.
“This year, the ultimate goal is to get back, and hopefully we can do that.”
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