GREEN BAY, Wis. -- James Jones hasn’t forgotten when he incurred Aaron Rodgers' wrath. Yes, even one of the Green Bay Packers quarterback’s good friends found himself on the receiving end of the two-time NFL MVP’s ire a few times during their eight years together.
And while Jones believes that Rodgers means it when he says he only gets on receivers he cares about and won’t chastise a player “unless I believe in a guy,” what’s more important to Jones is what Rodgers’ approach proves about Rodgers himself.
“For me, I loved it because it lets me know that you’re trying to win. It lets me know that you care,” Jones said this past Friday morning during an interview on “Green & Gold Today” on ESPN Milwaukee. “What’s crazy is he’s just like that in practice like he is in a game. He wants to be perfect, and if it’s not perfect -- whether it’s him, whether it’s you -- he’s going to own up to it and he’s going to make sure you hold up your end of the bargain.
“But I love it because I want a competitor. I want a guy out there that, if he’s not doing the right thing then, yeah, you get on him, whether I’m on the bad end of it or not. We’re all out here trying to win. We’ve got one goal -- trying to win the Super Bowl. We’re not one of these teams trying to make it to the playoffs, win five games, [or] be 8-8. We are trying to get to the Super Bowl, so we need everybody. And that’s how he approaches the game. He tries to be perfect.
“When [New England Patriots quarterback] Tom Brady does it, it’s all good. But when Aaron does it, [critics say] he’s not a leader and all this stuff. The guy just wants to win, and he wants to get the best out of everybody. Period.”
That’s why Jones, who spent his first seven NFL seasons with the Packers before returning last year to help fill the void left by an injured Jordy Nelson, believes the team’s young receivers -- Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, Ty Montgomery and rookie fifth-round pick Trevor Davis -- would be wise to do everything they can to connect with Rodgers and commit to doing what it takes to be on the same page with him.
Yet again, following the team’s final open practice during organized team activities last week, Rodgers reiterated how vital it is to not only understand the offense as it’s designed in the playbook (or, these days, on an iPad), but also how it’s run with Rodgers under center.
“I’ve said this a number of times: There’s an offense on paper and then there’s an offense kind of when we take it and go with it,” Rodgers said. “The great thing is, there’s freedom for creativity within that.”
But there’s also room for miscommunication and confusion, and that’s where Rodgers and his young receivers must work together, Jones said. Adams, Janis and Abbrederis are entering their third NFL seasons and should be furthest along in that process; Montgomery had his rookie year cut short by an ankle injury last year, and Davis is one of several rookies trying to get up to speed.
“They need to really take advantage of these OTAs and training camp and minicamp to really build Aaron’s trust. That’s first and foremost,” said Jones, who led the Packers in receiving yards (890) last season, in part because he and Rodgers quickly got back on the same wavelength in the offense. “If you go out there and have 12’s trust, he’s going to give you opportunities to make plays.
“All four of them need to sit down with Aaron. You pick Aaron’s brain, you talk to him on the field, you talk to him off the field, you consistently get in his ear on what he wants you to do. Just like when I first got there last year [after signing in Week 1]. Aaron was like, ‘Look, J.J., these are the routes I like you on, these are the routes I’m going to signal to you in the game because you run them very well.
“It’s definitely going to take them earning Aaron’s trust, communicating with him. Then he’s going to put you in the best situation possible.”
And while the Packers’ decision to go young at receiver wound up costing Jones a chance at returning to Green Bay, Jones believes those players will flourish this season behind Nelson and Randall Cobb -- with Rodgers’ help.
“All those guys bring great things to the table,” Jones said. “Davante can be special in this league; he had the injury bug last year [with ankle and knee injuries], which kind of messed him up mentally and physically. I expect him to bounce back. Jeff and ‘Abby’ are just extremely smart and extremely athletic guys. I’m excited to see what they’re going to do with a lot of opportunities.
“And my sleeper is Ty Montgomery. He’s one of those kids that is going to do everything perfect every time. He’s a perfectionist and he’s going to be where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be [there]. He’s extremely smart [and] they can move him around to numerous positions.
“I’m excited to see how those young guys do. Me being there last year, I built a relationship with every last one of them, so I just want to see them all succeed. But the biggest thing is earning Aaron’s trust. Like me and Randall and Jordy always talk [about], ‘We’re still trying to earn his trust.’”