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Running back Aaron Jones glad Packers prevented him from playing before he was ready

GREEN BAY - Aaron Jones is loath to admit it, but he understood why it took the Green Bay Packers' medical staff so long to clear him after straining his calf in practice a couple weeks ago.

A day after dropping out of that practice Oct. 22, Jones said he was confident he could play that weekend at the Houston Texans. Instead, he missed that game, then missed the following week, a loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

"I definitely do think it was beneficial," Jones said. "If it was up to me, any athlete, we're competitors and we want to get out there and compete with our brothers, but that's why you have team doctors and training staff. So they make sure you're not putting yourself at risk, and that you're there to play all the games in the season and there to help your team in the long run."

Jones finally returned last week at the San Francisco 49ers. He touched the football on the Packers' first four snaps, setting the tone for what was a surprisingly heavy workload. Jones had 20 touches in his first game back from injury, including 15 carries for 58 yards.

The Packers were without running backs AJ Dillon and Jamaal Williams (both were on the reserve/COVID-19 list) and lost running back Dexter Williams to a knee injury during the game. So Jones was still on the field even with the Packers comfortably ahead in the fourth quarter.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) ran for 58 yards on 15 carries against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 5.

On the short week, Jones said he was unsure whether he could return against the 49ers. The Packers told him early in the week he would be a game-time decision. When he got to the stadium Thursday, Jones said, he ran around the field to test his calf. He felt good in warmups, and the decision was made that he could play.

Jones said he left the win against the 49ers feeling healthy despite the heavy workload.

"The calf felt great," Jones said. "I was just happy to be back out there on the field. I was able to come out of the game with no setbacks, feeling great as well."

Alexander, Wagner still sidelined

The Packers had two players who did not practice Monday back on the practice field Wednesday, but cornerback Jaire Alexander (concussion) and tackle Rick Wagner (knee) were among those who were sidelined.

Alexander remains in the concussion protocol and if he’s not on the field for practice Thursday, there’s a good chance he won’t play against Jacksonville. The last stage in returning from the protocol is getting through a full practice and Alexander was not with the rehab group on the sidelines during practice.

Wide receiver Darrius Shepherd (shoulder) also was out. Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) was listed as a limited participant, but he did not take part in individual drills during the segment of practice reporters are allowed to watch.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith missed practice but it was not injury-related.

Returning were safeties Vernon Scott and Will Redmond, both of whom hurt their shoulders against Minnesota and missed the San Francisco game. Both were listed as limited participants on the injury report.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari (chest) was a full participant and cornerback Kevin King (thigh) was limited.

Careful about COVID

The Packers will remain in the NFL’s intensive COVID-19 protocol until at least Friday, according to coach Matt LaFleur.

The NFL placed restrictions on the Packers after Dillon tested positive a day after the Minnesota game and they were still in place when linebacker Krys Barnes tested positive Friday. Both players are being quarantined and are on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

LaFleur said among the restrictions are a limit on the number of players in regular meeting rooms, but he said because the Packers have such a large facility, they have been able to spread out so that they can meet in larger spaces and maintain proper social distancing.

“It doesn’t really hinder our ability to meet and give the guys the game plans,” LaFleur said. “So, we’re just really, really fortunate that we have the facility that we have.”

Packers swap running backs

Dexter Williams sprained a medial collateral ligament in a knee against San Francisco last week and the Packers placed the second-year running back on injured reserve Wednesday. To replace him, the club signed running back Mike Weber, a seventh-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 out of Ohio State. He spent most of that year on the Cowboys' practice squad before finishing it on the Kansas City practice squad. The Chiefs cut him in May.

Josh Jones returns

Safety Josh Jones’ short time in Green Bay didn’t end well, as the second-round pick in 2017 spent much of the 2019 offseason seeking to be traded, was removed from a training camp practice after scuffling with running back Tra Carson, missed time with injuries and illness and was ultimately released with a non-football illness designation due to hyperthyroidism.

He played six games for the Cowboys last season before being released. Claimed by Jacksonville in February, Jones has started all eight games for the Jaguars and has recorded 61 total tackles.

“He kind of bounced around the league for a while, bounced from team to team and really was kind of bouncing around here, and he came back with a whole different mindset of preparation and getting ready and really did a lot of work, you saw it right after the season was over,” Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said. “I can’t speak for him, whether it was like, ‘hey listen I’m going to put everything in and see what happens’ or anything like that, but he had a really good camp and really played well. He’s made a lot of plays for us this year and I think he’s done a nice job.”

Equipment manager nominated

Packers assistant equipment manager Tom Bakken was the club’s nominee for the league’s “Salute to Service” award. It is annual award given to a league member who “demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.” Bakken was also nominated by the club in 2016.

Bakken, who has been with the club for 26 years, has coordinated the flyovers over Lambeau Field since 2001. He also coordinated a trip to the Middle East with nine players following the Packers’ Super Bowl victory in 2010.

Finalists for the award are scheduled to be announced in January and the winner will be recognized at the NFL Honors award show, which is scheduled to air the week of Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay.