GREEN BAY – Nothing is certain as it relates to Aaron Jones' status for Sunday's game in Denver.
What is certain is the star running back can make a difference for the Packers' offense when he does return from his hamstring troubles.
"That's a guy we need to get the ball to when he's in," quarterback Jordan Love said. "The tape doesn't lie."
Since a tour de force performance in the opener, when he racked up 127 yards from scrimmage (41 rushing, 86 receiving) and scored two touchdowns against Chicago, Jones has played in just one game, on a limited snap count at that.
He came out of that cameo vs. Detroit in Week 4 fine, and was on track to play in the Monday night contest at Las Vegas before the Packers' bye, until he tweaked his hamstring during the Saturday practice prior to the trip out west.
Jones said he "overreached, over-strided" to try to catch a pass in the back of the end zone, and the hamstring didn't feel right. Out of an abundance of caution, the Packers held him out against the Raiders with the hope the ensuing off week would get him back on track health-wise.
That appears to be the case, as Jones said after Wednesday's padded practice – in which he was a limited participant – that he feels as good as he's felt since the initial injury.
He has to get through the full week of practice to get the green light for the Broncos game, which is no guarantee. But dealing with the emotions of sitting out while watching the offense struggle, particularly early in games as the Packers haven't scored a first-half touchdown since Week 2, got old a while ago.
"Sometimes you're out there, you have certain plays designed for you … and those plays aren't getting called," Jones said. "You see against a defense, 'Oh, we could have run this if I was out there.' So that gets to you a little bit when you're sitting over there on the sideline.
"It can be hard on yourself, not playing when you want to play, not having that effect you want to have, especially coming into this year. I felt like I was just heating up, especially Week 1."
Head Coach Matt LaFleur has cautioned that Jones' return will not fix everything that ails the Packers' offense. There have been a number of negative plays putting Green Bay in long down-and-distance situations due to missed blocks, penalties and (LaFleur admitted) bad play calls. Dropped passes, or not making better plays on contested catches, has factored as well.
That said, his teammates are sure looking forward to getting him back. Rookie receiver Jayden Reed called Jones "a missing piece to the puzzle," and guard Jon Runyan added "you never know what's going to happen" when Jones gets the ball.
"Just speed," Runyan said of how Jones can help. "He's going to press that aiming point, he's going to get outside … he's going to get through the smallest holes and explode out there for 12, 15 yards.
"You never know, he might take it to the house. Having him out there is key."
As the Packers' most dynamic offensive weapons, Jones and second-year receiver Christian Watson have been on the field together for just that limited sample size vs. Detroit. Watson missed the opener when Jones had the big game against the Bears, and Jones missed the Raiders game when Watson had three catches for 91 yards.
The sooner all the pieces can come together …
"Defenses just have to account for another guy out there, another playmaker, and how they're going to stop him, put a little bit more focus on him maybe," Love said.
"When you've got everybody out there, it puts more stress on the defense to try to figure out what they want to do and how they want to stop everybody and who they want to stop that day."
Ever the team player, Jones isn't promising he can do everything himself once he returns. But he also knows if he can have a fraction of the impact everyone is hoping for, the offense will be in a better place.
"I don't have a crystal ball, but I hope so. I do hope so," he said. "I hope this gives us a little confidence, but we know it takes all 11.
"I just know when I get in the huddle, the guys, they listen to me. They see me as a leader. So I hope I can bring a spark to them and give them that sense of confidence and we can just go out there and play."