GREEN BAY – Aaron Jones feared the worst as he was carted to the Packers' locker room midway through the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
After a hamstring issue slowed him during the first two months of the season, Jones was just starting to feel like himself again when he felt a sharp pain in his leg after being tackled during a 2-yard run with 3 minutes, 9 seconds left in the first half.
With his arms over the shoulders of team physician, Dr. Pat McKenzie, and head athletic trainer Bryan Engel, Jones grew emotional at the possibility of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that undoubtedly would end his seventh NFL season.
Fortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case. Jones still has to undergo further tests Monday but told reporters after the Packers' 23-20 win over the Chargers that preliminary manual tests indicated his ACL was intact.
"Like if it's my ACL, then I'm done for the season," Jones said. "I put in a lot of work, put in a lot of time to be here with these guys and for it to go out like that, I was feeling like, 'Man I can't catch a break.' But caught a break. Hopefully it's not anything serious and I'm back here pretty soon."
Jones said the injury occurred when a Chargers defender attempted to grab his right foot. Jones picked it up, but his left foot was planted in the ground when another defender came down on him. He said he could feel it in his knee, hip, and groin.
To make matters worse, rookie running back Emanuel Wilson was carted to the locker room a few plays later with a shoulder injury. That left fourth-year veteran AJ Dillon as the only remaining healthy running back on the gameday roster.
Dillon, who had 61 total yards on 18 touches, consoled both Jones and Wilson on the field before they were carted to the locker room.
"I felt those guys, man," Dillon said. "I saw 'em before both of them went inside, and I just told 'em, 'I've got you guys. I love you. We're going to find a way to get it done.' So I'm happy I was able to keep that promise and we were able to get that win."
Dillon wasn't alone. Jones said a number of players, including receiver Christian Watson and defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt, came in to check on him during halftime and told the veteran running back they were going to get it done for him.
After passing the initial manipulation test, Jones rejoined his teammates on the sideline with about 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter to cheer on his team during a frantic fourth quarter that saw Green Bay eventually turn back the Chargers with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Romeo Doubs and multiple defensive stops.
"They told me to stay back here, but I'm like ... It's just me and I realize it's only AJ in the game," Jones said. "So just to get in his ear and be there for the offense, I knew if they see me it would kind of lift them a little bit."
After clinching the win, Jones said Watson and Wyatt both came up to him to remind him of what they said.
"As soon as the game was over, they come find me and were like 'What did we tell you? What did we tell you?'" said Jones with a smile. "I'm glad the guys were resilient, everybody stepped up, made a play when we needed one, and I think this is a lot to build from."
Check out photos from the Week 11 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Chargers at Lambeau Field on Nov. 19, 2023.
Reed and the rookies: Sunday marked another big game for Jayden Reed and the rest of Green Bay's rookie class.
The rookie receiver recorded 88 of his 92 total yards in the first half, including a 32-yard TD run off a reverse on the first play of the second quarter. Fellow rookie Luke Musgrave set a key block on the play to open the sideline up for Reed.
"They did a great job blocking," Reed said. "It started off with those guys up front and those guys blocking for me on the perimeter. Thank you to those guys for getting me in the (end) zone."
Rookie fifth-round pick Dontayvion Wicks led the Packers with 91 receiving yards on three catches before leaving in the second half to be evaluated for a concussion.
All three came in critical spots, too. His 29-yard catch in the middle of the field in the second quarter converted a second-and-15 when Green Bay was pinned back at its own 12.
In addition to a 27-yard reception in the third quarter, Wicks drew a defensive pass interference penalty from Asante Samuel Jr. and broke several tackles on his game-long 35-yard catch and run to propel Green Bay on its go-ahead drive in the fourth.
"I thought he was getting in the zone," said Doubs, who caught the game-winning 24-yard TD. "I kind of shoved my block to the side. Because I thought the play was extended but as soon as I turned my head, I looked up and saw '13' legs wiggling everywhere, just breaking through tackles."
Green Bay's rookies have combined for a league-best 17 receptions of 25-plus yards, 10 more than any other team's rookies. The Packers rookie class has accounted for nine catches of 25-plus yards in the last two games.
Tight-rope Tucker: Rookie tight end Tucker Kraft recorded the longest catch of his young NFL career when he stayed inbounds while tightrope-walking down the Packers' sideline on 27-yard completion near the end of the third quarter.
It was nearly more than that, too. Officials originally called it a 39-yard touchdown before ruling he stepped out of bounds on the LA 12. The Packers still scored two plays later on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Love to Christian Watson to pull ahead 16-13.
"That's why I'm here. That's why I'm playing in the NFL is because the resume I had in college, a lot of YAC," Tucker said. "That's what I am right now is a guy who's gonna get his opps and try to execute to the fullest."
Wilson update: Like Jones, Wilson was ruled out shortly after being carted to the locker room and will undergo further testing on Monday.
The undrafted rookie running back said the injury happened when he came into contact with Kenneth Murray near the sideline at the tail end of a 9-yard pass from Jordan Love.
"I was trying to get extra yardage and then that situation happened," said Wilson, who finished with 21 yards on four touches. "I felt it, I thought it was a stinger and then the pain hit, and I just went down."