GREEN BAY – Jamaal Williams isn’t all the way back quite yet, but by most accounts, the Packers’ third-year running back is on the right track in his return to the playing field.
Take, for example, the 18 wind sprints he performed late in Sunday’s padded practice at Ray Nitschke Field, a part of his first on-field work since tweaking his hamstring last month.
Asked whether he might be better conditioned doing sprints on the side, Williams says there’s still no doubt in his mind what he’d rather being doing right now.
“I’d rather run in the game,” said Williams after practice. “This is how I keep conditioned but it’s more of a mental thing for me. Because I’m not playing, I need to get my runs in another way. It’s me trying to be the best I can, make sure that when I come back, I’m conditioned and ready to go and they don’t have to worry about me.”
The Packers have taken a patient approach with both Williams and 2017 draft classmate Aaron Jones, who was reintroduced to team periods Sunday after being brought back slowly from his own hamstring tweak during practice last week.
The two running backs figure to play significant roles in the Packers’ offense under Head Coach Matt LaFleur this season after combining for 1,192 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 254 carries (4.7 yards per attempt) in 2018.
Williams missed two preseason games last summer, but has played in all 32 regular-season games since the Packers drafted him in the fourth round from BYU in 2017.
Green Bay’s ground game has been off to a slow start without Williams and Jones in the first two preseason games. So far, the Packers’ four other running backs combined for 140 rushing yards on 41 carries (3.4 yards per carry).
The Packers have high hopes for the tandem of Jones and Williams, who is on-board with whatever direction the coaching staff and trainers want him to go leading up to Thursday’s preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.
Hamstrings can be tricky and Williams wants to avoid any potential setbacks. Now in his third NFL season, he’s developed perspective for preparation and the big picture.
“It’s a mutual agreement from both (me and the trainers),” Williams said. “You’ve got to make sure that you’re good because their sole purpose is to make sure that you’re healthy all the way, and you don’t go in thinking you’re healthy and you come back and re-injure. They just want the best for us and want us to be healthy.”
Whether or not he plays, Williams is particularly excited for the game against the Raiders, which will be played at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
The trip marks the first time Williams has been abroad. His biggest goal? To see a goose fly.
“I’ve never been to Canada. I think it’s the first experience for a lot of players,” Williams said. “I just can’t wait to go. It’s going to be a good experience. Really, it’s still a business trip. So that’s what we’re ready for. Just go out there, polish up some things and get better as a team.”
Precautionary measures: The Packers held quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of Sunday’s practice as a precaution after the quarterback sat out last Thursday’s game with the Ravens due to back tightness.
LaFleur said the Packers consider Rodgers “day-to-day” right now, while adding Rodgers likely would be on the field if this was a typical week during the regular season.
Without Rodgers, backup quarterback DeShone Kizer again led the Packers’ starting offense in practice. Although Rodgers wasn’t on the field Sunday, the offense’s goal was to practice at the same tempo as it does with the two-time MVP quarterback.
“We try not to make it different,” receiver Davante Adams said. “We want to go out there and definitely have the same juice and be clean. Obviously, the quarterbacks, they have to do what they do to get ready for the practice, but we try to approach it the same way if not better and make sure we’re all coming out there with the right energy.”
The Packers historically play their starters in the third preseason game, though it remains to be seen how they’ll proceed this year with the unique circumstances surrounding the game in Canada.
LaFleur suggested it’s unlikely Rodgers would play in the preseason finale against Kansas City next week, given the quick turnaround to play the Chicago Bears in the regular-season opener on Thursday, Sept. 5.
Regardless of what happens this week, LaFleur is confident in the work Rodgers has received in his offense up until this point of training camp.
“I think that he’s gotten a lot of great work in,” LaFleur said. “You’d like to get him some game action, but, again, he’s a veteran guy who’s played a lot of football. I mean, 14 years in the league, there’s not much that he hasn’t seen. So it’s not overly concerning to me.”
The Green Bay Packers held a public training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019.
In and out: Cornerback Ka’dar Hollman (stinger), linebacker Reggie Gilbert (knee) and left tackle David Bakhtiari (excused personal matter) were the only new non-participants Sunday.
Receiver Trevor Davis (stinger), defensive lineman Fadol Brown (calf) and fullback Malcolm Johnson (groin) returned to practice, while tight end Jimmy Graham left midway through after injuring his finger.