Aaron Jones has 'no clue' on status of contract talks; Billy Turner doubtful for opener
GREEN BAY - On Tuesday, Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones told NFL Network that his agent was negotiating an extension that would keep him from becoming a 2021 unrestricted free agent.
Now, less than two days before the Packers’ season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, Jones has “no clue” about the status of those discussions. Instead of focusing on a possible extension, the 2017 fifth-round pick is preparing to play in Sunday’s game at Minnesota on his rookie deal.
“We’d love to get that contract done as soon as possible, as anybody would,” Jones said. “I know it’s a process, so I’m just going to wait until it’s my time.”
Jones is not the only running back from his 2017 draft class that has yet to sign an extension. Vikings counterpart Dalvin Cook and his camp had been working toward a new deal this offseason, but those talks have stalled. Like Jones, Cook told reporters in Minnesota that he is planning on playing in Sunday’s game regardless of whether a new deal is finalized.
Signing young running backs to long-term extensions has become less common in the NFL as players have struggled to replicate success in the years that follow. However, both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Carolina Panthers invested in their starting running backs this year — the Bengals signed Joe Mixon to a four-year, $48 million extension on Sept. 1 and the Panthers signed Christian McCaffrey to a four-year, $64 million extension on April 16.
Jones is one of several key players on the Packers’ roster who will hit free agency in March if their contracts are not extended. The team elected to address nose tackle Kenny Clark first, giving him a four-year, $77.69 million extension Aug. 15. Right tackle David Bakhtiari, cornerback Kevin King and center Corey Linsley are also on the list of 2021 free agents.
Turner doubtful for Sunday
After giving his injured right knee a try in practice Thursday, Packers right tackle Billy Turner worked off to the side Friday, leading Packers coach Matt LaFleur to say Turner would be doubtful for the season opener in Minnesota.
Veteran Rick Wagner, who signed a two-year, $11 million deal to join the Packers would seem to be in line to start. He and Turner competed for the position in the truncated training camp but the 30-year-old from West Allis injured his left elbow and missed a week of time.
“There were certainly some challenges there,” LaFleur said of the combination of no offseason program and the injury for Wagner. “Anytime you’re not out on the grass and not getting those meaningful reps, it does set you back. But Rick’s a pro, we’ve got a lot of confidence in him, he’s started a lot of games in this league and he’s done it at a high level. So it’s more or less one of those things that we’re again trying to find the best five to go out there and compete against a very good Minnesota Vikings defense.”
After Turner originally hurt his knee Aug. 30, second-year left guard Elgton Jenkins took reps at right tackle, and right guard Lane Taylor has played tackle in the NFL also.
Also not seen during the open portion of practice for the team was Montravius Adams. The fourth-year defensive lineman returned to the practice field Wednesday after injuring a toe Aug. 18. He had been listed as participating on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday.
Outside linebacker Randy Ramsey, out with a groin injury since Aug. 25, remained working out on the side also. The Packers' Friday injury report listed Ramsey as out for Sunday's game.
New game-day locations for coaches
As LaFleur takes the sideline to call plays this Sunday in his first game since the NFC championship against the San Francisco 49ers, he’ll have offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in his ear from the coaches’ box for a second season.
“I think that we’re much more on the same page as a whole staff,” LaFleur said. “We’ve all been together for over a year and a half now. Just the communication, our process ... we’ve got a much better feel for what our players are capable of doing, and how we can try to put them in position to get that done.”
Although the offensive coaching staff remained largely unchanged this offseason, the sideline personnel assisting LaFleur will look a little different Sunday.
- RELATED: Marcedes Lewis still paving way for running game
- RELATED: In a season unlike any other, Packers face rough road tests early
- RELATED: Brian Gutekunst Q&A: Packers GM on Gary, Love and more
- RELATED: How far can 2020 Packers go? Our predictions
- RELATED: Packers make the best of preparing QBs in a pandemic
Wide receivers coach Jason Vrable, formerly an offensive assistant, moves from the coaches’ box to the sideline. He swaps places with offensive quality control coach Kevin Koger, who will join Hackett, assistant offensive line coach Luke Butkus and offensive quality control coach Connor Lewis in the coaches’ box.
“I think it’s going to be great up there, just the operation, the three of us being up there again,” Hackett said. “It just runs so smooth and I think that’s the key to get the information to Matt as fast as we can from what we see down to him. We’ve just got to continually get better. It already got better last season and it’s just going to continually get better.”
Vikings outline pregame plans
On Sunday, the Vikings will welcome in some guests to an otherwise empty U.S. Bank Stadium by inviting the family of George Floyd to be recognized during the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” following team warmups.
Floyd was killed May 25 by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, sparking a wave of social-justice messaging from NFL teams — including the Packers.
As of this week, the Packers have yet to publicly declare what demonstration they will perform before the game Sunday.
“We talked about that as a team, and we’re keeping that in house,” defensive captain Za’Darius Smith said.
In the NFL season opener Thursday night in Kansas City, the Chiefs played “Lift Every Voice and Sing” along with the national anthem. The Houston Texans elected to remain in the locker room for both. Both teams then joined together at midfield and linked arms for what they called a “moment of unity.”
“I think it was just great to see both teams do that united and both of them come to an agreement to do something as teams,” Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark said. “Just with us, we're still talking about everything, about what we wanna do and all that kinda stuff, so I don't really have nothing to say about that, but we're still talking about that.”
Some boos could be heard from the socially distant crowd of about 17,000, however.
“It really caught me off guard, just people coming together for one common goal, and during like a protest moment of silence people were booing,” Packers running back Aaron Jones said. “I think that shows they don’t have a lot of respect and they really don’t care about the name on the back of your jersey or you as a person, it feels like when they’re booing during those times. We know it’s not everybody out there that’s like that, so you can’t group a group of people into that.”