GREEN BAY – It had been a week since the Packers released Ricky Jean Francois, but the veteran defensive tackle was still calling Green Bay home as recently as Wednesday.
Jean Francois stayed around the area – sans a visit Tuesday with the New Orleans Saints – in hopes of catching back on with the Packers once their injury situation settled down.
Instead, it probably was another wave of injuries in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons that ushered in Jean Francois’ return to Green Bay’s locker room.
The Packers re-signed Jean Francois Thursday, adding depth to a defensive line that lost Mike Daniels to a hip injury on the opening series in Atlanta.
With rookie Montravius Adams inactive and Jean Francois off the roster, the Packers played the final 3½ quarters with three defensive linemen: Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Quinton Dial, who signed with Green Bay less than two weeks ago.
While Jean Francois had been biding his time in Green Bay at first, the 6-foot-3, 313-pound defensive tackle finally packed up his belongings Wednesday and booked a flight to Dallas to keep training for his next NFL opportunity.
He didn’t make it far.
“I was going to Dallas and when I was in Minneapolis all I saw was my phone lighting up,” Jean Francois said. “I was like, ‘What’s up? What happened?’ They were like, ‘We need you back in the building.’ And I’m like, ‘What building?’”
That building was Lambeau Field. So the Packers booked Jean Francois a flight back to Green Bay and he was on the practice field Thursday in preparation for Cincinnati.
Jean Francois didn’t hold any bitterness or resentment regarding his release on Sept. 13. He learned long ago from the likes of Justin Smith and Patrick Willis about life in the NFL.
After all, he was caught in a numbers game when the Packers needed a roster spot for offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was promoted from the practice squad with starting tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari both out with injuries.
Upon returning to Green Bay, Jean Francois said he turned a few heads when he walked back into the building, with some teammates unware he’d re-signed with the team at first.
He slid right back in with the defensive line, quickly reigniting his friendly bickering with second-year defensive tackle Clark about sports, music or whatever the topic du jour is on that given day.
All kidding aside, the veteran defensive tackle had an impact on the young linemen during their time together.
“Ricky and I are always arguing and stuff about any and everything, but I’m happy to have him back,” said Clark with a smile. “He’s a good vet. I can’t explain how good he is for our room. He keeps us young guys together. He’s just a great guy.”
It’s possible Jean Francois might have signed with New Orleans if Green Bay didn’t work out. The Saints had been quizzing him about his passport prior to his re-signing with the Packers (the Saints play in London on Oct. 1).
However, Jean Francois felt he had unfinished business in Green Bay. He’d developed friendships since signing with the Packers in March and had been working tirelessly since the start of the offseason program to get up to speed on the playbook.
The other thing about re-signing with the Packers is the opportunity to chase the Super Bowl championship that’s eluded Jean Francois during his eight previous NFL seasons.
Regardless of whatever happens, Jean Francois always keeps things in perspective. He understands while he’s back today, tomorrow is still not guaranteed.
So he’s making the most of the moment.
“I’ve got to treat every day walking into this building like it’s my last,” Jean Francois said. “If I’m only here for the time that Mike is hurt, then so be it. If I’ve only got to be here for that period of time, I just need to do my job, help these guys out, make sure they’re in the right position to do what they’ve got to do.”
Jean Francois could be on the field this Sunday against the Bengals. If Daniels has to sit – he didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday – the Packers will be counting on Jean Francois and the rest of their young linemen to help make up for the absence of one of the defense’s biggest playmakers.
Jean Francois only played six snaps in the opener two weeks ago against Seattle, but he’s ready for whatever reps are there for him. Frankly, he’s just happy to be back in the Packers’ locker room.
“I thank God they caught me and booked me a flight and brought me back. I was really happy,” Jean Francois said. “I tell the guys you’ve got to appreciate being in this building. You’ve got to, I’m telling you, because when you go other places you’re going to learn real quickly that the place you was at was priceless.”