OAKLAND, Calif. - James Jones tried to play it cool. Here at his locker, after a win against his former team, the Green Bay Packers veteran receiver had reason to gloat.
Seven months ago, the Oakland Raiders handed Jones a detour he never saw coming. He led their team in receptions last fall, but they wanted to get younger at receiver. So one season after the Raiders signed him to a three-year deal, Jones was cut.
He returned for the first time Sunday. The Packers beat the Raiders 30-20, clinching a playoff berth in Jones’ former backyard. The Raiders? They’re two games under .500 in another forgettable season.
This looked like sweet revenge for a player booted from town last spring. At his locker, Jones shrugged.
“That wasn’t even on my mind,” he said. “I tried not to get all my emotions built up in this game. … I don’t hold no grudges for nobody. I just go out there every game and try to play well. It wasn’t trying to get back to the Raiders, man.”
Aaron Rodgers knew better. The Packers quarterback said he looked for Jones “a little bit extra” Sunday. Time after time, his veteran receiver delivered.
Jones led the Packers with six catches for 82 yards. It was his best game in a month, and not just because of his 30-yard touchdown against busted coverage, a score that gave the Packers a 24-20 lead they never surrendered.
”He was consistently winning outside,” Rodgers said. “We’ve had a good on-the-field rapport for years. He did a good job of adjusting to some back-shoulder stuff, and other than a real bad call at the end there in the end zone that was double-clutched and way late, he played really good. Should have had a couple touchdowns.”
Rodgers wasn’t the only one upset with the fourth-quarter offensive pass interference penalty that wiped out Jones’ second touchdown. After the game, the veteran receiver shook his head. Jones thought his 5-yard catch was textbook. There was contact, yes, but no more than any other play.
Or so Jones thought.
“The guy engaged with me,” Jones said. “I put my hands on him. I reacted to the back shoulder (throw), and it’s called a flag. My only thing is, the (official) waited 2 hours and 32 minutes to throw the flag after he heard the roar of the crowd, or whatever it may be.
“They took one away from me. That’s the one that’s probably going to stop me from sleeping.”
It shouldn’t for long. The Packers have a bigger test next week when the travel to the Arizona Cardinals. They’ll need their veteran receiver to play like he did in Oakland.
Jones’ production has been inconsistent this season. With eight touchdown catches and multiple 100-yard games, he’s had his moments. Other weeks, he’s been invisible. Jones’ 82 yards Sunday surpassed his total in the Packers’ previous three games.
Which is why Jones didn’t want to boast after beating his former team.
“It feels good whenever you come out and play well,” Jones said. “I’m sure they’ve seen some of the good games I’ve had on TV and stuff. So coming back here and doing it in front of them is not a big deal to me.
“I try to play good football every day. I’m on a one-year deal, and I’m trying to give my family a little bit more money.”