With Aaron Jones’ status in doubt, Packers turn to Jamaal Williams — and add more help at halfback
GREEN BAY — While Joe Philbin wasn’t about to announce that running back Aaron Jones’ season is over — the Green Bay Packers interim coach is averse to saying much of anything about injuries — the signs are not encouraging for the team’s top running back.
Jones, who leads the Packers in rushing with 728 yards on just 133 carries (a 5.5-yard average) and eight rushing touchdowns, left Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Chicago Bears during the first half with a knee injury and did not return. Jones had carried four times for 8 yards.
The NFL Network reported Jones sustained a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee and that the injury is not considered serious. That said, given Jones’ importance to the offense and the fact Sunday’s loss eliminated the Packers from playoff contention, it’s hard to imagine the team playing him this Sunday against the New York Jets.
“We’re going to have to see what his status will be,” Philbin said. “Hopefully he’ll be ready to play. But again, nobody is going to go on that field unless they’re physically ready to go out and contribute to the success of the team. We’re not going to put someone out there who is in jeopardy in any way shape or form.”
The Packers had only one other true halfback on the roster against the Bears — Jamaal Williams, who carried 12 times for 55 yards and a touchdown — and would have had to resort to playing fullback Danny Vitale or wide receiver Randall Cobb at halfback had Williams been injured. Cobb later left the game with a concussion and is in the league protocol, putting his status for Sunday in doubt.
To bolster their backfield — and in what looks like a sign that Jones will be held out against the Jets — the Packers claimed running back Kapri Bibbs off waivers from the Washington Redskins on Monday evening. Bibbs carried 20 times for 101 yards and three touchdowns for Washington this season and also caught 13 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown.
The 5-foot-10, 203-pound Bibbs is in his third NFL season out of Colorado State, having played in 26 career games — rushing 70 times for 309 yards with three TDs and catching 29 passes for 305 yards and three more TDs. He started his career as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Denver Broncos in 2014 and spent time on their practice squad and active roster before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers in April 2017. Waived at the end of training camp last season, he went back and forth on the Redskins’ practice squad and active roster before being waived Saturday.
Williams, who led the Packers in rushing last season as a rookie while Jones battled a pair of knee injuries as a rookie, too, figures to get the bulk of the carries against the Jets. He’s carried 98 times for 365 yards (3.7-yard average) and two TDs this season.
“I really liked what he did in the game. Liked what he did a lot,” Philbin said. “He’s contributed a lot already to the season, but obviously his role changed on Sunday. And I thought he responded well. There were two or three runs I wish he would have made this cut or took that angle, no doubt about it. But he played physical, he played decisive, he went north-and-south. The guy’s a good football player. I thought he did a good job.”
The Packers had room on their 53-man roster for Bibbs because rookie reserve offensive lineman Alex Light was suspended one game by the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Light, who made the team coming out of training camp as an undrafted free agent but has played only three snaps on offense this season, is eligible to return to the Packers’ active roster on Dec. 24. … Cobb, who missed six games earlier in the year with a recurring hamstring injury and might not play against the Jets because of his concussion, still remains an important part of the offense, according to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers praised Cobb, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, after Sunday’s game, saying: “When Randall’s healthy, I think our offense has been different because we have a true slot guy who can make plays in the slot consistently. But he’s missed a lot of games this year and he got banged up today late. Having a slot guy like that who legitimately can get open time after time, when we need him. Obviously, I feel good about our young guys and our tight end situation moving forward, and I think we’ve got a supreme talent in (No. 1 receiver) Davante (Adams).”