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Playing time for Aaron Jones based on more than carrying football

October 9, 2018

GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy is clearly aware of his fan base’s — and fantasy football owners’ — plaintive wails for running back Aaron Jones to get more opportunities.

The Green Bay Packers coach understands why. But, he insisted, it’s not that simple. No matter how impressive Jones has been in his limited snaps.

Left unsaid: Jones isn’t as reliable a pass protector as Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery, who are playing more snaps than Jones.

“If you find it hard to understand, I don’t know if I can explain it to you,” McCarthy said Monday, one day after Jones ran seven times for 40 yards in the first half but never carried the ball again after halftime in the Packers’ 31-23 loss at Detroit. “You look at the strengths of all your people and Aaron’s dynamic with the football in his hands.

“I think it’s very obvious the balance we’re seeking from our running back position. I think it’s one of the strengths that we’ve had since Aaron’s come back. We have three young men that we believe in and three guys that contribute. But there’s more to playing the position than just running the football.”

Jones, who sat out the season’s first two games because of an NFL substance-abuse suspension, has carried 24 times for 147 yards (a team-best 6.1-yard average) since his return. He has the team’s only touchdown run as well as the longest run from scrimmage (30 yards).

In the three games since Jones came back, Williams (91 snaps) has been on the field the most, followed by Montgomery (69) and Jones (68). Against the Lions, Williams played 33 snaps, Montgomery played 29 and Jones played 22 — but that total included five snaps on the Packers’ final possession. Jones did convert a third-and-7 with a 12-yard catch and run to keep the final drive going.

“I mean, it’s a team game. I know there’s other players on the team who are just as capable as I am. That’s why they’re getting opportunities as well,” Jones said Monday. “You’ve just got to be ready when your number is called. We have three backs that have showed that they can do it, so there’s no reason to sit there and get mad when you have two other backs who are just as productive. You just have to sit and wait for your turn.”

Jones said he was not injured in any way Sunday, so his time on the bench was not injury-related. Asked if he needs to prove his skills in the pass game to get on the field, Jones replied. “I mean, I feel like, honestly, no. But you can always prove yourself. So, it wouldn’t hurt to prove yourself.”

For his part, McCarthy said a greater run/pass option would allow him to play Jones more, and insisted Jones would have gotten more touches had the Packers not dug themselves a 24-0 halftime hole.

“Hey, I’m here to represent to the fans, too. We love Aaron Jones. I know what the statistics are,” McCarthy said. “When you look at offensive production, how many rushes and how many completions you have is a big part of the formula of how you set out to play a game. The formula that was set out to play that game did not fit the outcome as far as how many rushes that we intended to go into the game with. But that’s why we play the game.”

From the infirmary

McCarthy said quarterback Aaron Rodgers “is playing through a lot” with his injured left knee, and McCarthy indicated there might be more to his injuries, too.

“He’s not going to make excuses, and I’m not going to stand up here and go that route because he’s playing through a lot,” McCarthy said. “I think what he’s given us is more than — I don’t want to say more than we expected. He’s given us a lot, and that’s the reality of it. But he’s playing through a lot.”

Rodgers revealed he re-injured the knee during the game, which means he’ll have to keep wearing a heavy protective brace. Rodgers had been hoping to be out of the brace sometime after the bye.

Asked if Rodgers is dealing with more than the knee, McCarthy declined to give specifics, adding, “I appreciate what he’s fighting through.”

Cornerback Kevin King, who returned to action after missing two games with injury, said his groin was fine. His face? Not as much. He took “four or five” stitches after Lions receiver Golden Tate stepped on his face during the fourth quarter as King tried to tackle him. King should be fine, though, and McCarthy is hoping fellow cornerback Jaire Alexander (groin) will play next Monday night against San Francisco.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Randall Cobb, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, said he was hopeful he’d play.

“I was hoping to test it this past Saturday and have a chance to play in the game on Sunday, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. That’s above my pay grade,” Cobb said. “I’m doing everything I can to get ready for this game. The way I felt the past 48 hours, and with another 72 hours before we practice, I think the strides and the progress I’ve made every day definitely I have confidence that I’m going to be out there (against the 49ers).”

Extra points

King said he was sure the Lions’ first-quarter punt that officials ruled had touched him did not in fact hit him. The play was a huge turnover as the Lions recovered at the Green Bay 1-yard line and scored their first touchdown thereafter. “It didn’t hit me,” King said. “If you see my reaction, if it would’ve hit me, I would’ve turned around and tried to get it. I just ran off the field. I thought they were celebrating because they downed it at the 1. I didn’t even know that’s what they were cheering about until, like, the replay.” … McCarthy said the Packers will use the extra preparation day in the “classroom environment” and will not practice Wednesday.

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