The Green Bay Packers need James Jones.
And James Jones needs the Green Bay Packers.
After leading the NFL in touchdowns in 2012 and setting a career high in receiving yards in 2013, the Packers made little effort to retain Jones in free agency the following offseason. And after setting a career high in receptions during his only season in Oakland, the Raiders released him after the draft. Then the Giants let him go in the final cutdown last week.
That’s three closed doors in the span of a year-and-a-half.
“I got released twice, which basically means we don’t want you on our team. You really ain’t good enough to help our team win,” Jones said with a smile that either showed his appreciation for getting another chance or masked his true feelings — or a combination of the two emotions. “I got a little chip on my shoulder, man. I’m kind of upset about it. At the same time, everything happens for a reason. It’s good to be back home. I have a lot of stuff to prove man to not only the people who released me but also myself.”
The Packers need Jones to prove he’s still got it. He doesn’t need to be a star but the Packers could use another receiving threat opposite banged-up Pro Bowler Randall Cobb. If nothing else, Jones alleviates some of the pressure on the young trio of Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis. That’s especially true for Montgomery and Janis, who have taken limited reps with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and haven’t built that deep quarterback-receiver connection.
“I think there obviously is that comfort level,” quarterbacks/receivers coach Alex Van Pelt said on Thursday. “I don’t know how much James is going to play on Sunday and Ty and Jeff, so that remains to be seen, (but) it does give them a little bit more time. If J.J. is the guy, it gives Ty a little more time to find his way and Jeff to continue to grow, which is good. But they’re going to be called upon to come in and perform, as well. Really, there’s no time to slow-play this thing for those young guys. They’ve got to get ready to contribute on Sunday.”
Jones has “done well” in his first week back in Green Bay, coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday. After working with him for seven seasons, McCarthy wasn’t surprised.
“James is sharp, a smart football player — and also the fact that I was able to watch him play in the preseason — he’s everything we thought he would be,” McCarthy said.
Van Pelt wasn’t surprised, either.
“Some of my best friends I don’t talk to for six months, but when you pick up the phone, it’s right where you left off,” Van Pelt said.
Jones is back on a one-year deal. At age 31, this could be his last chance to be a key player on a championship-caliber team. He has a lot to prove.
“Man, I have a chip on my shoulder because I got released,” Jones said. “If they fired you, aren’t you going to be mad? I’ve been doing my job. That’s all it is. I felt like in Oakland we were a bad team and I felt like I was one of the bright spots on that team with the year I had. They released me. It’s not that I have a chip, it’s more like you want to prove to people you still got it.”
That includes the Packers, the team that went from not wanting him to badly needing him.
“Yeah, I never wanted to leave, but at the same time they have to do what’s best for their team and I have to do what’s best for my family,” Jones said. “It sucks how things work out sometimes, but it’s good to be back, man. I’m excited and I’m ready to have fun, ready to help win some ball games.”
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.