GREEN BAY — Aaron Jones said there’s no cause for concern.
That hamstring “injury” that had sidelined him from practice since July 31? It wasn’t even a true injury, according to the Packers’ third-year running back.
“I wouldn’t even call it an injury. Just a little tightness,” Jones said after returning to practice Saturday.
He wouldn’t let it keep him out for long. Especially given the opportunity that’s up for grabs.
Fellow running back Jamaal Williams, the other main threat in the Packers’ running game, has missed over two weeks of training camp with a hamstring injury and there’s no public timetable for his return.
That could leave the door open for Jones to really make an impression in first-year head coach Matt LaFleur’s new system, if he can shoulder first-team reps in practice and the remaining preseason games.
Getting out on the field has been an issue at times though. Injuries have followed Jones throughout his first two years in the league. He missed four games in his rookie season and four more in 2018, although two were due to suspension. When he’s healthy, the UTEP product has showed flashes of his potential. He rushed for 728 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
As much as they want him out on the field, the Packers are being cautious with the running back’s workload.
“We’re going to be pretty smart about it,” LaFleur said Saturday. “Certainly he’s a great player and it’s nice to have him back out on the field. ... Today we were a little slow with doing individual (work), but we’ll slowly integrate him back into what we’re doing.”
Jones said he would have played in Thursday’s win over the Texans had it been a regular season game instead of a preseason contest. But given the long season of work he’s prepping for, it made sense to avoid the risk and sit out.
“I want to be out there every day, but it’s a long season so I appreciate the rest. As a running back you take a lot of poundings, so I’m not against (a break).”
In Jones’ absence, rookie Dexter Williams did most of the work against Houston. The former Notre Dame man ran for 62 yards on 14 carries.
“Dexter did some good things in the run game,” Jones said. “Making a cut and getting downhill, vertical. I thought it looked really good.”
But there’s no question who sits at No. 1 on the depth chart. The starting spot is Jones’ until somebody proves otherwise.
He doesn’t have any particular number of reps or minutes he wants to hit in the preseason. He said he just wants to be out there enough to feel like he’s ready to go when the games actually count.
The first step toward that was taken Saturday, as Jones ran across Armed Forces Drive onto Ray Nitschke Field with a shout of “I’m back!”
“It felt good to have a helmet and shoulder pads on and be running around with the guys,” he said. “I’m excited to be back out there.”