With trade door open, Josh Jones' future with Packers remains murky

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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GREEN BAY - If it weren’t for a hamstring injury, Green Bay Packers safety Josh Jones said he would have practiced Tuesday.

That hamstring, Jones said, was the reason he instead stood on the sideline, unaccompanied by a helmet, not participating in the first day of mandatory minicamp. At times Jones stood next to a trainer or assistant coach, chatting. Other times he stood all alone in the distance, arms folded.

But all that standing was necessary, he said. The hamstring left him no choice.

“If I was able to practice today,” Jones said, “I’d be able to practice.”

Jones was able to stand on the sideline earlier this spring, but he chose not to. Instead, the second-year safety skipped voluntary organized team activities, the operative word being voluntary. Jones trained in Florida the past several weeks, where he said he injured his hamstring.

Asked why he decided not to be with his team, Jones offered two reasons: He likes working with his trainer in Florida, and he wanted to spend more time with family, especially his young daughter.

Green Bay Packers defensive back Josh Jones (24) during practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

Neither reason, he allowed, was to force a trade. When asked if he still wanted to be dealt elsewhere, as ESPN reported last month, Jones neither confirmed nor denied that he did and instead referred to general manager Brian Gutekunst’s earlier comments. On the side of the field after practice, Gutekunst left the door to a trade wide open.

“I think it’s more about what our team desire is,” Gutekunst said, “and right now we’re kind of working through that. But he’s a very talented player. He’s shown that on the field at times. We’ll go along and see where it goes.”

Jones showed up to mandatory minicamp, primarily because the operative word was mandatory. “Anything that’s considered mandatory,” he said, not incorrectly, “you have to be here.” Still on his rookie deal, Jones was not about to be fined for an unexcused absence. Jones said he would report to next month’s training camp if still on the team.

That, of course, is also mandatory.

The question is whether Jones will be traded before then. For there to be a trade, there must first be a market, and the Packers might need to create demand for Jones. There’s a reason Gutekunst signed Adrian Amos in free agency and later doubled down at safety, trading up in the first round to draft Darnell Savage Jr. Through two seasons, Jones, a second-round pick in 2017, has not done nearly enough to earn a starting job. Other teams are well aware of that.

Jones said he was “not at all” upset with Gutekunst’s decision to add two safeties who project as 2019 starters.

“You have to look at it,” Jones said. “Our defense underperformed the past two years, so all of the moves Gutey made, obviously he made those moves to help this team.”

How big of a role did Jones play in the defense’s underachievement?

“I don’t know,” said Jones, who has changed his number from 27 to 24. “I mean, I was out a lot last year. Well, not a lot. I was out three games, but I didn’t play as much last year. So I can’t really tell you.”

Jones wasn’t the only one who said all the right things Tuesday.

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Coach Matt LaFleur said he doesn’t anticipate Jones participating in minicamp, though he’s in attendance. If there’s no trade, LaFleur said Jones is a “versatile guy” who can plug several positions in the defense.

“I think he’s a talented young player,” LaFleur said, “that I think can help us.”

Jones grew agitated when asked whether his decision to skip OTAs could backfire.

“OTAs were voluntary,” Jones said at one point. “What does the word 'voluntary' mean in the dictionary?”

With Amos and Savage getting all the first-team reps on defense, and young safety Raven Greene filling the hybrid linebacker role in nickel, the Packers' defense sure looked like a unit ready to move on. Jones appears ready for a change, too. One thing is clear, he said.

Come camp, Jones expects his hamstring injury to no longer be an issue.

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