The NFL loves a good comeback story. With all the bad news that permeates the league, the story of how Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones found his way back to success with the Packers is one to give any young player hope.
Looking back at Jones’ preseason, it’s hard to imagine from how it started, he would be where he is now. Jones was in camp with the New York Giants after a prompt release from the Oakland Raiders at the end of the season, and was having himself a strong preseason.
However, as often is the case, players can look the part in preseason, but coaching staffs don’t envision them as part of their long-term plans. And as Connor Orr of NFL.com pointed out, the Giants decided to let Jones leave rather than keep him. It's important to note Oakland released him after he led the team in 2014 with 73 catches and six touchdowns.
But Jones carried no ill will toward the Giants. In fact in perfect fashion for a guy creating a comeback story, Jones turned that negative into a positive growth experience, as noted in this interview with MMQB's Jenny Vrentas:
I truly believe the Lord sent me to the Giants for a reason because it wasn't to make the team, it was to polish off all my skills. I was on my couch for a minute, and then I was able to go to the Giants where the playbook is almost identical because Ben McAdoo was with the Packers for so long, and he took that offense over there.
I was able to polish off all the rust, play in some games and able to get in football shape. So when I came here, it was all second nature. There were a couple new plays that Aaron had put in and a couple new signals, but we talked about that and were able to get on the same page with that.
On the surface, a player being released is never good news. The NFL is fickle, so it’s impossible for veterans to know just how long they will stay out of work. In Jones’ case, it was only a couple of days. After wide receiver Jordy Nelson went down with a season-ending knee injury the Packers welcomed Jones back with open arms after his one season absence, per USA Today.
It has taken no time at all for Jones to re-acclimate himself to this Packers offense he spend his first seven seasons in. Minus Nelson, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is leaning heavily on wide receiver Randall Cobb. However, it hasn’t taken Jones and Rodgers long to get back on the same page, especially near the end zone. So far, in three games, Jones has 12 catches, four of which have gone for touchdowns. SportsCenter highlighted Jones' inclusion in an elite group of receivers:
In the Packers 38-28 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night, Jones paced all Green Bay wide receivers, with seven catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. SportsCenter noted Jones has already notched four touchdowns out of nine receptions in just three games:
It’s hard to imagine watching him play these first three games of 2015 and not wonder why the Raiders and Giants didn’t feel like he could help them win. And with so many teams in the league absolutely starved for talent at wide receiver, how fortunate he was that Green Bay came calling. It wouldn't have been long until plenty of other teams tried to sign Jones, but going back to Green Bay was a perfect fit.
Keep in mind, it was only 2012 when Jones led the league in touchdown catches with 14. Seeing him ringing up scores now shouldn’t come as a huge shock.
Nevertheless, Jones' reunion with the Packers could be bittersweet. In a chat, Packers.com editor Vic Ketchum was asked whether or not Jones could be released when Nelson returns. Here’s Ketchum’s answer:
Jones wasn’t released in the first place. He left in free agency because he was such a talented football player the Packers couldn’t afford to keep him. If he keeps playing football the way he’s playing football right now, the Packers could face the same problem again. It’s football in the salary cap era.
The fact that a comeback season like this could be one-and-done with Green Bay just proves that this league is all business. However, for now, it is great to see a player who grew up homeless once again find success in the NFL. Jones is an easy guy to root for. The fact he's proving those teams that didn't want him wrong is just a bonus. Keep catching those touchdowns and proving everyone wrong.