GREEN BAY – Now that the jokes and teasing are over, Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones can measure what effect his considerable drop in body fat can do for him.
Jones was noticeably trimmer during offseason workouts, but it wasn’t until a Dexa body fat scan was performed during OTAs that he realized what he had accomplished through a change in diet.
His weight remained the same, but his body fat dropped from 11% last season to 5.3% and upon reporting for training camp it looks like he might have lowered it some more. It’s most noticeable around his mid-section and Jones said when he watched practice tape Friday he couldn’t help but notice a difference from a year ago.
“I was a little chubby (before)," he said. “At the time I thought I looked good, but I feel a lot better, I’m moving a lot better. I look a little stronger, not as bulky in the stomach area.”
Through the first three practices, Jones, who is listed at 208 pounds, has lined up with the first team to start every drill. Teammate Jamal Williams also receives snaps with the No. 1s and remains an important part of the run game, but Jones would likely be the starter if the season opened tomorrow.
Jones, who led the team in rushing last year with 728 yards on 123 carries (5.5 average), is an excellent fit for first-year coach Matt LaFleur’s offense. He’s quick more than fast and his career yards-per-carry average of 5.5 yards is all anyone needs to know about his ability to break off 20-yard runs.
“I just think that he’s a dynamic, one-cut runner that has some versatility in the pass game,” LaFleur said. “He’s got good hands, and I’m sure glad he’s on our team. For him and a lot of our players, it’s just getting comfortable with our offense and knowing exactly what to do and digging at the details.”
With Williams out Saturday because of a hamstring injury, rookie Dexter Williams got a heavier dose of rushes with the No. 1 offense, but the majority of time quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on the field, Jones is with him.
“However much they’re going to play me, they’re going to play me; however much they use me, they’re going to use me,” Jones said. “Starting off getting the reps with the 1s – Jamal gets them, too -- getting to start every period, I’m pretty much getting them.
“It’s definitely a compliment knowing they trust me.”
Jones has several goals but first among them is staying healthy. He has torn his medial collateral ligament three times since entering the NFL and running backs coach Ben Sirmans has stressed to him that he needs to get stronger in the lower body so he can withstand the hits from the side that have caused his injuries.
It’s hard to measure a back’s effectiveness during practice because there’s no tackling, but Jones has had a few noticeable moments catching the ball.
On Saturday, Rodgers couldn’t find anyone open for what seemed like 10 seconds before throwing low into the end zone and letting Jones go get the ball. The catch resulted in a 6-yard touchdown that charged up the offense.
Jones would like to expand his game and there’s a good chance that opportunity will come in LaFleur’s offense.
“Any running back who doesn’t want to be a part of the pass game, I haven’t met one,” Jones said. “Everybody likes to get involved, everybody likes to touch the ball.”
Packers bring another running back aboard
A day after signing Corey Grant, the Packers’ attempts to bulk up their running back depth chart continued Saturday.
The Packers announced they claimed running back Darrin Hall off waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals. They released guard Larry Williams to clear the roster spot.
Hall was an undrafted rookie from the University of Pittsburgh. He rushed for 1,144 yards on 153 carries with 10 touchdowns last season. He originally signed with the Cleveland Browns after being undrafted last spring. The Bengals claimed Hall on waivers in May.
Hall will join a backfield that was missing a member Saturday when Jamaal Williams sat out to nurse a hamstring injury.
Williams first felt his hamstring tighten while running a receiving route during 11-on-11 drills Friday. The Packers running back didn’t drop out of practice. His legs were stretched out, so he stayed on the field for the rest of practice.
Williams said his absence should not be long.
“It’s nothing serious at all,” Williams said. “It’s just going to hurry up, just get it recovered, and I’ll be back soon.”
When nose tackle Kenny Clark earns his big contract, he’ll have to send teammate Corey Linsley a thank-you note.
In a one-on-one pass-rushing drill, Clark resumed his yearly training camp matchup with Linsley, the Packers’ starting center. This is their fourth training camp together and the two reps they took against each other were as entertaining as anything that took place on the field.
Linsley twice used his tremendous upper body strength to latch onto Clark rather than retreating and hoping to anchor in front of the quarterback. Clark fires off the ball every time and if you don’t engage him quickly, there’s a chance he’ll zip right past you.
Both times, Clark worked club moves to try to free himself from Linsley’s grip and wound up running free to the quarterback.
But he said Linsley won the first match-up because it took him too long to free himself. He said he would score the second attempt as a win.
“Corey is strong as hell,” Clark said. “I love practicing against him because he’s one of the better centers out there. He gets into you and it’s like Velcro.”
Daniels sends thanks
Officially a member of the Detroit Lions, defensive tackle Mike Daniels sent out a thank you on Instagram to Packers fans, former teammates, the Green Bay community and the organization.
Daniels signed Friday with the Lions, just two days after the Packers released him. He played seven seasons with the Packers and devoted considerable time to charitable causes in the Green Bay area.
Daniels wrote: “To all of my coaches, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning staff, equipment staff, front office, and everyone in the Packers Family, I am forever thankful for my time here. Thank you for your time, energy, and support during my 7 years in Green Bay. Without doubt, I’ve become a better player and a better man because of it.
“To my teammates, or should I say MY BROTHERS IN ARMS, it has been an honor to line up and play alongside you all. We’ve accomplished a lot, had each other’s backs, had a lot of fun and created memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you for believing in me and pushing me to become the best version of myself.”
Bulaga ready for long road ahead
On Saturday, the first day the Packers donned shoulder pads, starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga was afforded a veteran’s off day by LaFleur. The 30-year-old Bulaga was given some time off during spring practices as well.
There is no injury concern for Bulaga, who said he is feeling good physically and looks forward to continuing to play beyond his contract, which expires after this season.
“I’m very fortunate to be in this position for 10 years,” Bulaga said Friday. “Not many guys get to play 10 years in this league, so I’m very fortunate from that standpoint. And also to be with the same team going on 10 years, very fortunate for that as well.
“Obviously, everyone is asked to leave at some point. Eventually someone tells you, 'You need to get out.' But I don’t know. I mean, the body still feels good. Still love the game. Still love doing it. I still have a desire to keep playing. I enjoy the day in, day out’s of it. I’ll keep going until someone tells me I can’t.”