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Safety Jonathan Owens pushing for starting job on Packers' defense

He ran with the first team on Family Night while wife Simone Biles made triumphant return to gymnastics

S Jonathan Owens
S Jonathan Owens

GREEN BAY – Jonathan Owens had his Packers teammates a bit confused Saturday night.

Not while on Lambeau Field for Family Night making defensive calls in the secondary. That wouldn't have served him well in his bid to start at safety.

It was immediately afterward, when he was shouting for joy in the locker room following … practice. You see, his night of work was done, but he'd been dying to find out how his wife's evening had gone.

Owens' wife, Olympic and world championship gymnast Simone Biles, was making her return to the sport after a two-year hiatus, competing at the U.S. Classic in Chicago.

"I sprinted in here right out of Family Night to go check my phone and check out the scores," Owens said following Monday's training camp practice. "I'm in here screaming and guys are like, 'What's going on?' I'm like, 'Man, my lady, she just won. She killed it.' I was super excited."

Biles' all-around title and triumphant return made a bunch of headlines. Owens working with the No. 1 defense as Darnell Savage's safety partner didn't create as many, but it was noteworthy he was still with the first unit Monday, a sign he must be doing something right in the open competition with Rudy Ford and Tarvarius Moore.

Ford had taken most of the snaps alongside Savage with the ones until late last week, when Owens moved up. Whether there's been an actual shift on the depth chart or if it's just his turn for an extended look – and Moore might be getting one at some point, too – isn't entirely clear.

Either way, Owens (5-11, 210) is just keeping it simple, focusing on "my job," which he referenced multiple times. He's a head-down-and-plug-away type of player, which helped him overcome a torn ACL as an undrafted rookie in Arizona in 2018, and then pushed him into a starting role for the first time last season with Houston after three years of practice-squad work and part-time playing opportunities.

Owens arrived in Green Bay as a free agent in mid-May and got up to speed with the playbook pretty quickly. He mentioned meeting with the coaches on a couple extra occasions, but having spent time in two other NFL cities and having played for multiple defensive coordinators while in Houston, learning a new system was old hat.

While he admits "you never want to feel like you've got it," Owens has reached a comfort level with his responsibilities in coordinator Joe Barry's system. Occasionally he'll lean on Savage for certain details but he's also relying on his experience as a 17-game starter for the Texans last year to read, react, communicate and play the game accordingly.

"I'm a lot more confident in my calls and I'm starting to anticipate things more," he said. "I'm getting more familiar with Joe's defense. I'm feeling good."

Owens had family in town to celebrate Family Night on Saturday, while Biles had hers with her in Chicago. The newlyweds then FaceTimed late into the night to catch up on everything, but now they're waiting until the weekend to see one another again, with Owens off to Cincinnati with the Packers this week for a joint practice and preseason game.

Such is the life for two elite athletes focused on their careers and competitions in front of them.

For Owens trying to land a starting job with a new team, that means proving to the coaches he will be in position, perform consistently and attack when plays are there to be made.

"I'm excited, man, just ready to go," he said. "I've put in a lot of hard work and everything's going to happen how it's supposed to as long as you prepare for the moment. You have to go out and take advantage of it."