James Jones was gone.
But he really hadn’t left.
During his one season in Oakland, he set a career high in receptions but also endured a career high number of defeats. One more defeat came Jan. 18, 2015.
“I did watch the NFC Championship and I was sick to my stomach just because all these dudes are brothers to me in here,” Jones said on Monday, the day he officially re-signed with the Green Bay Packers. “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.”
Jones is back to help the Packers get over that hump. He was released by the Raiders in May and again by the Giants on Saturday. He’s the football equivalent of the cavalry, riding to the rescue to provide experience to the receiver corps and chemistry with Aaron Rodgers — two things sorely lacking with Jeff Janis (two catches as a rookie last season), Ty Montgomery (rookie) and the since-released Myles White (nine catches in two seasons).
“Great to have James back. Looks good,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Obviously, everybody was excited. He has a certain energy about him. He’s obviously a very good fit for us, excellent player for us, Super Bowl champion — all those things. I’m glad he’s back.”
More importantly, McCarthy said a moment later, “he’s a good football player, let’s not lose sight of that. You can go watch his tape through preseason, watched his tape playing last year. He looks like James Jones. I’m glad he’s back. Things happen in free agency, players move on. He’s been a big part of our success in the past.”
Jones had a career-high 73 catches last season for the Raiders. However, those went for only 666 yards. Of the 81 receivers with at least 33 receptions, Jones ranked 80th with a 9.1-yard average. Some of that was playing on a bad team. Some of that was having rookie quarterback Derek Carr. Some of that was being the No. 1 target in the passing game for the first time in his career.
None of those things will be true in Green Bay. The Packers are not a bad team. Aaron Rodgers is a two-time MVP. And he will be perhaps the co-No. 3 in a passing game that includes Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot to give,” Jones said. “I feel like I’m still playing at a high level. I had the most catches of my career last year. I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve fallen off but I’ve got a lot of people to prove wrong. If there’s any time to do it, it’s right now with the best quarterback in the league to help me out. We’ll see how it goes and I’m excited about it.”
Clearly, Jones won’t be asked to replace all of Jordy Nelson’s production. What he can replace is his leadership. What kind of guy is Jones? White called him on Sunday and the two engaged in a lengthy conversation, with Jones offering to help in any way.
That kind of presence can only be an asset for Adams (22), Montgomery (22) and Janis (24) as they take on vastly different roles than what had been on tap before Nelson’s injury.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to help anybody,” Jones said. “Cobb knows the type of player I am, the type of teammate I am. I want everybody to succeed, help everybody get better. With Jordy being down, I’m the oldest guy in the room. Even with Jordy being up, I’m the oldest guy in the room. I’m going to play football the way I play football, but anything the young guys need, they know I’m here to help and I’m going to help them as much as I can.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.