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Training Camp Report: Jones Off And Running Again

Third-year wide receiver James Jones is once again off to an impressive start in training camp, but after battling a knee injury throughout the 2008 season, his focus this year is aimed at staying on the field. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Aug. 6


WR James Jones

Third-year wide receiver James Jones is once again off to an impressive start in training camp, but after battling a knee injury throughout the 2008 season, his focus this year is aimed at staying on the field.

Jones originally sprained his right knee in the Packers' third preseason game, at Denver, but he was forced to leave three other games during the regular season when he re-injured the knee. He ended up playing in just 10 games with two starts after playing in every game with nine starts as a rookie in '07.

"I would like to say he's back," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "James last year was one of the stars of training camp. I thought he had an incredible training camp last year. He hurt the knee up in the Denver preseason game and it was something that was with him all year. He looks like he is back to full strength."

Jones, who said he had never missed time in his career due to an injury prior to '08, said as challenging as last season was, it also served as a learning experience.

"The biggest thing I think I learned last season was to never take anything for granted," Jones said. "This is a special opportunity that we have. When things are going well, you really don't think about that stuff happening. When it does happen you can lose your job or you can get cut.

"After the injury happened so many times, it was definitely frustrating. I've got a positive attitude and I want to just move on and be the guy that I know I can be and make the plays that I know I can make."

Jones showed his play-making ability as Green Bay's No. 3 receiver as a rookie, catching 47 passes for 676 yards (14.4 avg.) and two touchdowns. Because of the injury those numbers fell off dramatically last season, with Jones posting just 20 receptions for 274 yards (13.7 avg.) and one touchdown.

While the injury was trying enough on its own, watching the team fall short in so many close games just compounded matters for Jones.

"It made it worse because you feel like you can help," Jones said. "If your team is losing, you always feel like you can do something to help them. Maybe it's one play or two plays, do something to help and contribute. It definitely hurt."

Despite the nagging injury, Jones did finish the season on a high note, catching 10 of his 20 receptions in the final four games, highlighted by a career-best 132-yard performance in Week 15 at Jacksonville.

"I was just glad to get out there and catch some passes," Jones said. "The whole season I would play a game and miss a game, or play a game and get hurt and miss two games.

"The Jacksonville game, just to get in there and be able to play the whole game and catch some passes and just feel like I was a part of the team and contribute, it was definitely big."

Jones said his knee felt 100 percent by the time he started working out in the Packers' offseason program in March, and he hasn't had any issues since.

"The first time I was on it I had to kind of learn how to trust it after last year," Jones said. "It's good to be out there running with no pain and be able to have fun with the guys. Hopefully I can just go out there and have some fun and contribute like I know I can."

Dealing with adversity

This offseason, safety Nick Collins had to cope with the loss of his father, Willie James Collins Sr., who passed away in May at the age of 56 following a lengthy battle with cancer.

"He was my coach on and off the field," Collins said. "I would call him and say, "Oh man, it was a great day. I had a pick.' We watched game film together. He would tell me, 'Oh, you did this wrong," so he was my biggest critic.

"It's just a blessing. He is still here with me and I just carry him onto the field with me all of the time."

Even though Collins missed some of the voluntary OTAs this offseason as he enters the final year of his contract, McCarthy said Collins' focus has never been a concern as he transitions into the new 3-4 scheme.

"I've never seen a distracted Nick Collins," McCarthy said. "Even in his time here in the spring, Nick is about business. He just needs those reps. He knows what it looks like and understands what he's supposed to do from the book, and he'll pass all those tests.

"He's like any other player. You need live reps. You need the communication when the bullets are flying and the tight end is moving and they're shifting and motioning and all that. And that's what he's getting. He's an exceptional player back there. He's shown you what he's all about from the number of plays he's already made in camp."

Plays of the day

In the morning session, linebackers Jeremy Thompson and Desmond Bishop almost had interceptions. Thompson jumped up at the line of scrimmage and got two hands on a Brian Brohm pass, but couldn't bring it in. Bishop was downfield in coverage and cut nicely in front of the receiver on an underthrown ball, but he couldn't secure the knee-high pass.

At night, quarterback Aaron Rodgers found Jones deep down the middle of the field as he made a leaping grab with cornerback Tramon Williams covering.

Rodgers later found wide receiver Greg Jennings on another deep ball down the middle with cornerback Al Harris in tight coverage and safety Atari Bigby coming over.

Collins made a leaping interception of a Rodgers pass over the middle intended for WR Kole Heckendorf toward the end of Thursday night's practice.

Humphrey sidelined

Tight end Tory Humphrey fractured his forearm during Thursday morning's practice and will be out indefinitely.

Humphrey sustained the injury during a two-minute drill period Thursday morning on a pass thrown from Rodgers over the middle that safety Aaron Rouse intercepted.

McCarthy said Humphrey would undergo surgery on Friday, but said it was too early to tell if the injury was season ending.

"It's awful," McCarthy said. "No one works harder. He has had a couple of tough injuries. We'll know more after the surgery tomorrow, and then we'll go through the options."

{sportsad300}It is the second time in the past three years that Humphrey has suffered a serious injury during training camp. In 2007, he broke his lower leg during the opening practice of camp and was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Humphrey also spent the last seven games of 2006 on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury.

Humphrey played in all 16 games with seven starts last season, and caught 11 passes for 162 yards.

Injury/participation update

Several veterans got the morning off but all returned to practice at night. The healthy vets who sat out the morning session were cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Harris, linebacker Aaron Kampman, nose tackle Ryan Pickett, wide receiver Donald Driver and tight end Donald Lee.

Players on the one-a-day schedule – Bigby, center Scott Wells, tackle Chad Clifton and defensive end Cullen Jenkins – did not practice in the morning but returned at night.

Center/guard Duke Preston (back) and guard Daryn Colledge (thigh) both returned to the field Thursday morning and participated in both practices.

Safety/cornerback Jarrett Bush (abdominal) returned in the morning but dropped out early. He did return to full participation Thursday night.

Cornerback Pat Lee (back) and safety Anthony Smith (groin) both dropped out of the morning session and did not practice at night. McCarthy said Lee was undergoing further testing.

Defensive end Justin Harrell got the night off. McCarthy said the team just wanted to be smart with him because of all the reps Harrell has taken in camp thus far.

Linebacker Clay Matthews dropped out of practice early Thursday night after tweaking his left hamstring, the same injury that forced him to miss some time during OTAs.

Thompson and wide receiver Ruvell Martin both left practice early Thursday night with groin injuries.

Remaining out of practice for both sessions were linebackers Nick Barnett (knee) and Brad Jones (back), defensive end Johnny Jolly (ankle), wide receiver Patrick Williams (hamstring), running back Brandon Jackson (shoulder) and nose tackle B.J. Raji (unsigned).

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