Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones regains necklace with father's ashes lost during four-touchdown tribute
GREEN BAY - Aaron Jones grabbed toward his collar as he rose from Lambeau Field’s north end zone, reaching for a necklace he’s worn so often over these past several months, it’s become essential to his wardrobe.
The necklace keeps Jones’ father close to his heart. Inside a tiny, black football, Jones carries his dad’s ashes. Alvin Jones Sr. died of complications due to COVID-19 shortly after Jones signed a four-year, $48 million contract this offseason.
Aaron Jones brings that necklace with him anytime he steps onto a football field, including Monday night’s 35-17 win against the Detroit Lions, when the Green Bay Packers running back proved again he’s one of the NFL’s bright stars.
“It’s just different when you watch the film,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, “and 33 is back there. He’s just a different type of back. He’s a special player.”
It was a special, emotional night for Jones, his first game back inside Lambeau Field without the man who taught him to love the game. Fifteen family members filed through the gate, including Jones’ mother, twin brother and son. After Jones’ first touchdown, he pointed to the sky and saluted his father. After another, he gave the football to his child, who carries his name.
Jones would later say his first touchdown, the chance to salute his father, was his favorite. It had plenty of company. He crossed the goal line four times, once on the ground. After his second score, a 1-yard reception out of the backfield into the right flat, Jones reached for his necklace.
He flashed it to an ESPN camera. He leaped into the stands. Then he jogged back to the Packers' sideline.
That’s when Jones realized the black football with his father’s ashes was missing.
“I think the grounds crew is about to go out there and look right now,” Jones said. “But if there was any place to lose it, that’s where my dad would’ve wanted me to lose it. So I know he’s smiling.”
On Tuesday, Jones told The Steve Czaban Show on 97.3 The Game in Milwaukee that the necklace had been found. He then confirmed it on Twitter.
There was a lot for Jones and the Packers' offense to smile about Monday night. A week after neglecting the running game — and, not coincidentally, the end zone — in an embarrassing blowout loss against the New Orleans Saints, the Packers looked like the offense that led the NFL in scoring last season. They opened with an 11-play touchdown drive consisting of eight runs, coach Matt LaFleur determined to rediscover his offense’s identity from 2020.
Jones led the way. He carried the football on each of the offense’s first three snaps, good for 16 yards. Once the Packers entered the red zone, Jones ended the drive with four straight touches, including a 4-yard touchdown on a jet sweep. It was his first of three touchdown receptions, becoming the first Packers running back with three touchdown catches in a game since Andy Uram in 1942, the year "Bambi" was Hollywood’s must-see movie.
In all, Jones finished with 67 yards on 17 carries. He added six catches for 48 yards. His four touchdowns tied a career high against Dallas early in the 2019 season, when Jones would go on to lead the NFL with 19.
In that game, Jones had been fined for taunting on his way to an end zone before one of his scores. There was no taunting Monday night.
“I want to keep that money,” Jones said afterward, smiling.
He has quite a bit more of it now after his payday this spring. The Packers made Jones the NFL’s seventh-highest paid tailback for nights like this. On a team that features the NFL’s reigning MVP and an All-Pro receiver, Jones is the engine that makes everything go. When he’s featured in LaFleur’s offense, the Packers are at their best.
Jones was a nonfactor in the opener against the Saints, finishing with just 22 yards on seven touches. During the week, LaFleur decided he would not repeat that mistake.
“He’s so dynamic,” LaFleur said. “He’s such a great player in not only the running game, but the passing game — which, three touchdown receptions is a pretty good night for anybody. He opens up so much for us, and we’ve got to continue to find ways to get him the football. But he is a dynamic playmaker.”
A year ago, tight end Robert Tonyan had three touchdown catches in a Week 4 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons on "Monday Night Football." The Packers didn’t enter Week 2 planning for Jones to match him. They wanted to re-establish the run game against the Lions, but didn’t anticipate Jones would be such a game changer catching passes out of the backfield.
Rodgers said Jones’ big night was a byproduct of the Lions playing so frequently with two deep safeties, the same defense the Saints used a week earlier with much success. The two deep safeties left a linebacker to cover Jones most of the game.
Jones has become a coverage mismatch against almost any linebacker in the league.
“I thought we did a nice job schematically finding ways to get him open,” Rodgers said, “but no I don’t think I went into the game thinking I was going to hit him on more than one touchdown pass.”
It would be hard for Rodgers to expect Jones to catch three touchdowns in one night. Before Monday, the most Jones had caught in a season was three.
If Jones struggled with losing his father’s ashes after the game, he kept his composure in front of the cameras. Yes, it was fitting for Jones to leave a piece of his father in the Lambeau Field end zone, a place the running back has made his home.
Jones expects to visit him there many more times this fall.