This isn’t about revenge for James Jones.
Admittedly, the Green Bay Packers receiver was miffed when the Oakland Raiders cut him loose in May, only 14 months after agreeing to a three-year, $10 million contract that brought the San Jose native back to the West Coast.
The Raiders felt Jones’ services no longer were needed after drafting Amari Cooper and signing Michael Crabtree. It wasn’t until after a brief stint with the New York Giants, Jones finally flew back to Green Bay to rejoin the Packers after Jordy Nelson’s season-ending knee injury.
This Sunday, Jones and the Packers (9-4) have a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win over his former team. This week, victory — not redemption — is what's foremost on Jones’ mind.
“I mean I’ve been cut by two teams,” said Jones on Wednesday. “Like I’ve been saying since the year started, I want to go out there and play good football, man. Not for them but for myself. I never came into this game trying to prove people wrong. I came into this game just trying to show people my ability and really show myself with all the hard work I’ve put in in the offseason for it to all pay off on the football field.
“No, I’m not trying to go in there and catch a million balls and say, ‘I told you so. Why did you cut me?’ Nah, I just want to play a good game. But most of all, I just want to win.”
The Raiders have been patient with the rebuilding plan of former Packers executive Reggie McKenzie, now in his fourth year as Oakland’s general manager. His 2014 draft class netted Oakland a budding pass-rusher (Kahlil Mack) in the first round and a promising quarterback (Derek Carr) in the second.
Jones began training with Carr during his sophomore year at Fresno State where Jones’ former receivers coach, Keith Williams, coached at the time. The way Carr threw the ball reminded Jones of his own quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, which led to Jones dubbing Carr “Baby A-Rod.”
Jones was able to play one season with Carr, catching a career-high 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns. Jones has 35 catches for 660 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games with the Packers this season.
"It’s going to be fun to go against James," said Oakland defensive back Charles Woodson, who played with Jones from 2007-2012 and then again in 2014. "James, I thought he was going to be on my team this year, but he went back there to Green Bay, back to where he was drafted, where he’s comfortable. I think he’s done a good job. It’ll be fun to go against him. We just have to keep him from catching all those touchdowns that he’s been catching."
Jones made an immediate impact after re-signing a one-year deal with the Packers in September with 21 catches for 424 yards and six touchdowns in the first six games. However, his production has trailed off since the team’s Week 7 bye week with only 14 catches for 236 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay’s last seven games.
Jones has three games left in the regular season to show what he can do with unrestricted free agency again in his forecast. He hopes for a big performance Sunday against the Raiders, but only because of what it would mean for the Packers’ passing game.
“It would be good to back and win, see some of those guys,” Jones said. “But like I was telling these guys the other day, I go into every game trying to catch a million balls and get a million yards. It’s not going to change for me, man. I just want to play well, the same way I go into every game.”