GREEN BAY – James Jones hasn't entirely given up hope of returning to the Green Bay Packers, but the soon-to-be unrestricted free-agent wide receiver clearly understands his predicament.
Speaking on NFL Network’s NFL Total Access Monday, Jones came off as honest but realistic about his chances of coming back to the Packers after a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel during the NFL Scouting Combine that the club hasn't made him any sort of contract offer in advance of free agency opening on March 11.
“It’s an exciting time for me and my family. I would love to go back to Green Bay and play ball there; I love a lot of my teammates there and [love] playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the game," Jones said. "But we all know this is a business; this is the part that we all hate but you have to deal with it.”
The last time Jones was an unrestricted free agent, in 2011 after the Packers' Super Bowl XLV-winning season, a lockout wiped out the offseason and free agency opened just before training camp. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers went to bat for him -- both publicly and privately -- in an effort to get the club to re-sign Jones, and he wound up returning for a three-year deal worth $9.6 million.
With the emergence of Jarrett Boykin when injuries struck Jones and Randall Cobb last season, and the team's desire to extend Cobb's and Jordy Nelson's deals, it appears the Packers only want Jones back if they can re-sign him at their price. Jones has spent all seven of his NFL seasons with the Packers after they took him in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of San Jose State.
Last season, he caught 59 passes for 817 yards, setting a career high for receiving yards, despite missing two-plus games with a knee injury suffered at Baltimoreon Oct. 13. Although he wasn’t the touchdown machine he was the previous year (NFL-high 15 TD catches), he still showed at age 29 that he has plenty of football in front of him.
A veteran leader who is admired in locker room and active in the community, Jones finished last year having played 925 snaps despite the knee injury, which he came back from before he should have. He also played final weeks of season with broken ribs, which may explain in part the two drops that he had on tough but catchable balls in the playoff loss to San Francisco.
“Priority No. 1 is taking care of my family. Priority No. 2 is if I’m not able to go back to Green Bayto find a good fit with a good quarterback with people that are trying to win," Jones said. "[I want] to be a part of that and help them win some ballgames.”
Asked if there are any quarterbacks in the NFL he would like to play with, Jones said he'd prefer to stay with Rodgers but suggested Indianapolisor Seattlemight be fun to join.
“Yeah there are a couple of quarterbacks out there. Not saying they’re better than the guy that I’m playing with now, but there are a couple of guys out there," Jones said. "I wouldn’t mind playing with some of the young guys – Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson. I wouldn’t mind playing with those guys but I would love to stay put and play with A-Rod though."
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