GREEN BAY — Aaron Jones was dashing through the (light) snow on Clarke Hinkle Field on Thursday afternoon — as well as catching passes, hitting blocking sleds and cutting on his injured right knee — and the Green Bay Packers are hoping their No. 1 running back could be back in the lineup Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams after missing only one game.
Jones, who suffered what was described as a mild MCL sprain during the Packers’ Nov. 14 shutout of the Seattle Seahawks, didn’t play in last Sunday’s loss at Minnesota. But he took part in the team’s light walkthrough-style practice on Wednesday and was back out there on Thursday in a non-padded practice that was held outside as a mix of sleet and snow fell in Green Bay.
He was officially listed on the injury report as having been limited in his participation, so it’s unclear how much 11-on-11 work Jones got on Thursday.
#Packers RB Aaron Jones (knee) is taking part in today’s #Thanksgiving practice, and coach Matt LaFleur hopes he can play vs. #Rams. “Certainly, we’re going to see how he progresses throughout the week and see where he is on Sunday.”— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) November 25, 2021
(Bring on the jokes about my musical choice.) pic.twitter.com/wn55EZ4Emv
Without Jones, No. 2 running back AJ Dillon got the bulk of the work against the Vikings (11 carries for 53 yards, six receptions for 44 yards) with Patrick Taylor (four carries, 11 yards) backing him up. The Packers do have their long-awaited bye week next week, so the team could take a conservative approach with Jones and hold off until the team’s post-bye Dec. 12 matchup with the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
“Certainly we’re going to see how he progresses throughout the week,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said before practice. “And (we’ll) see where he is on Sunday.”
Meanwhile, LaFleur said the team is also holding out hope that rookie center Josh Myers, who hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury Oct. 17 at Chicago, could play. Myers subsequently had surgery but it’s unclear what type of injury or surgery Myers had and how long he’d been projected to be sidelined.
“We have not ruled him out. It’s a long process in regards to his comeback from that injury,” LaFleur said. “We’re optimistic, but to give you a timeline, I can’t do that at this moment.”
While Jones took part in practice, quarterback Aaron Rodgers (toe), cornerback Kevin King (hip/knee) and wide receiver/returner Malik Taylor (abdomen) did not. Left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) also did not practice and has already been ruled out for Sunday. Tight end Marcedes Lewis did not practice as part of his veteran rest regimen, while wide receiver Allen Lazard (shoulder) was limited.
Home for the holiday — eventually
Having spent more than a decade in the NFL, LaFleur has learned one thing about Thanksgiving: You’re going to spend most of your day at work, and you’re probably going to need to reheat your dinner.
“I made the mistake, especially earlier in my career, of giving my wife an exact time I’ll be home. Because I never seem to make that,” LaFleur said before practice. Asked if BreAnne and his family wait for him to eat dinner, LaFleur replied, “Absolutely not. I tell them, ‘You start. Just be ready to warm up a plate for me on the way home.’”
The Packers haven’t played a Thanksgiving game since 2015, under previous coach Mike McCarthy, but Thursday practices are important in the NFL and most coaches, LaFleur included, simply move up their schedules to try to get players home earlier than usual.
“We’re making sure that we’re very efficient with our time in the building and we kind of sped everything up and try to get these guys out of here,” LaFleur said. “So they can still get the work in, because we obviously know that’s a big part of it — making sure our preparation’s on point in order for us to go out there and play our best ball — but also allow these guys some time with their families.”
Help on the edge
With Jonathan Garvin on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Rashan Gary’s status uncertain because of an elbow injury (although he did practice on a limited basis again Thursday), and multiple edge rushers on injured reserve, the Packers signed outside linebacker Nate Orchard to the practice squad and released running back Kerrith Whyte from the practice squad.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Orchard is in his sixth NFL season and entered the league as a second-round pick by Cleveland in 2015. He has spent time with Buffalo, Kansas City, Seattle, Miami, Washington, Houston, Tennessee and Minnesota. Overall, Orchard has appeared in 46 games with 13 starts and has recorded 85 tackles (51 solo), six sacks, 11 tackles for a loss, 16 quarterback hits, an interception, six passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
“It’s been pretty spacious (in the outside linebackers room),” veteran Preston Smith said. “It’s about persevering. Throughout the league, you’re going to be faced with challenges and ups and downs. We don’t care about the circumstances, we just have to focus on what we can control. Guys know they have to step it up and help contribute the best way possible.”
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