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Green Bay RB Aaron Jones rebounds from injuries to help lead Packers into postseason

Packers Aaron Jones against Redskins December 2019.jpeg
Posted at 5:36 PM, Jan 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-12 18:36:33-05

GREEN BAY (AP) — This hasn't been a typical season for Green Bay's Aaron Jones, but the veteran running back has regained his peak form just in time to help the Packers reach the playoffs.

Jones, 29, bounced back from hamstring and knee injuries to rush for at least 112 yards in each of the Packers' last three games. The Packers won all three to earn the NFC's final wild-card berth.

That enables Jones to return to his home state as the Packers (9-8) visit the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys (12-5) on Sunday in a matchup that typically brings out his best. Jones, who went to Burges High School in El Paso and starred at UTEP, has rushed for 370 yards and six touchdowns in three previous meetings with the Cowboys.

"It was my childhood team growing up," Jones said. "And then back home in El Paso, there's a lot of Cowboys fans. I like to walk the streets with some peace of mind, not worrying about having to hear them talk. I feel like that's the biggest thing."

Jones rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown last season as the Packers rallied from a two-touchdown, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Cowboys 31-28 in overtime at Lambeau Field. He ran for 107 yards and a career-high four touchdowns while also catching seven passes for 75 yards when the Packers won 34-24 in Dallas in 2019.

He originally made a name for himself as a rookie fifth-round pick in 2017 by rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown while making his first career start in a 35-31 victory at Dallas.

"I think that was kind of my coming-out party," Jones recalled.

Jones, cornerback Jaire Alexander and defensive tackle Kenny Clark are the only three guys on Green Bay's 53-man active roster who played for Mike McCarthy, who's now the Cowboys coach. McCarthy coached Green Bay from 2006-18.

"Love his running style, just the way he attacks the crease," McCarthy said. "No wasted movement. In my time with him, the only thing was he was just light. He had some injuries there the first two years. He's definitely someone when he's on the field, you better know where he is. … Just a hell of a football player."

Those injury issues arose again for Jones this season.

Jones was on his way to scoring his second touchdown in a season-opening triumph at Chicago when he grabbed his left hamstring. The hamstring issue caused him to miss three games.

After getting carted off the field in a Nov. 19 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, Jones missed three more games with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. The initial fear was that the injury might be much more serious.

"It looked pretty gruesome live," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. "I know he was in a lot of pain. When we got the news that it wasn't as bad as we initially thought, we were ecstatic about that. His presence alone just uplifts everybody."

Jones missed more games this season (six) than he had sat out the previous four seasons combined (four).

"When things get tough, that's when it really shows who you are as a person," Jones said. "Just continue to work through that, fight through that. I showed up every day and was here for my teammates, tried to cheer them on, be whatever they needed me to be and continued to work to get better every day. I feel like I did that, stacked those days and it's showing."

Jones rushed for 656 yards, his lowest total since his rookie season. Yet the Packers probably wouldn't have reached the playoffs without him.

"I love watching him run," offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said. "I love how he approaches it, I love how he gets off on the snap and just fricking hits the holes. It's fun to watch. It really is. And he's such a special guy and such a good leader for our team and just leading by example.

"I don't have enough great things to say about Aaron Jones, just how he plays, and he's just been such a tremendous asset for our offense."

Jones, the Packers' 2021 and 2022 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, is respected throughout the league for his community service. Jones and Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons participated in offseason events last summer in their respective hometowns of El Paso and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

"He's such a genuine and honest dude," Parsons said. "One of the best dudes I've met."

Jones showed his commitment to the Packers by restructuring his contract and taking a pay cut this season to stay in Green Bay, where his leadership sparked a late-season surge.

Now he's intent on keeping it going.

"I'm just excited to be in the postseason, ready to grind," Jones said. "I feel like I've gotten back healthy and been able to show what I can do, kind of how I started the season. Just looking to continue to build off that momentum."

NOTES: RB AJ Dillon (thumb/neck) is doubtful for Sunday's game, while CB Jaire Alexander (ankle) and WR Christian Watson (hamstring) are questionable. Watson has missed five straight games but practiced on a limited basis this week. Dillon, who didn't practice, sat out the Packers' 17-9 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. No status was assigned to WR Romeo Doubs, an indication he should be ready to go Sunday after a chest injury knocked him out of the Bears game. ... The Packers signed CB David Long Jr. to their practice squad and released RB Kenyan Drake from their practice squad.