GREEN BAY, Wis. — James Jones is apparently the anti-Mike Wallace. Of the 21 complete passes thrown by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 1 of the regular season, none of them were caught by Jones. Unlike Wallace, whose one catch in his Miami Dolphins debut had him upset, Jones wasn’t worried about his role — or lack thereof — in the Packers’ offense after one game.
“There isn’t anything to yap about,” Jones said Wednesday in the locker room. “We’re just trying to win. I’d be real selfish if I came in here and had an attitude or something.”
Jones led the NFL in touchdown receptions last season with 14, which was twice as many as the previous career best in his first five seasons. Jones only had one game in 2012 in which he didn’t post any catches.
“No big deal,” Jones said. “You’re not going to get 10 passes every game. The main thing is, just stay the course. Run your route to win. If (Rodgers) doesn’t see you, he doesn’t see you. If he does see you, he’ll get it to you. My main thing is, just run my route to win and if I don’t get it, my other teammates are getting it, and we still have a chance to win the game, and we’re going to go down there and make some plays.”
Jones mentioned the performances of fellow receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on multiple occasions. Nelson and Cobb both finished with seven catches and 100-plus yards against the San Francisco 49ers. Jones was only targeted twice.
“If they try to take one of us away, the rest of us are going to kill you,” Jones said. “Jordy and Randall had a great day, Jermichael (Finley) had a great day. Hopefully we can keep them rolling and get me involved and make some plays.”
Jones predicted this offseason that he, Cobb and Nelson would all finish with more than 1,000 receiving yards. Last season, no Green Bay receiver reached that number, with Cobb leading the team with 954 yards. Though Jones has now fallen behind them early in the race to 1,000, he was disappointed that Green Bay lost to San Francisco, not about his own statistics.
“I’m not mad about it,” Jones said. “I wish we would have won, but I’m not mad about it. I know the ball will come. Every game you’re not going to get 10 passes. Just keep grinding. That’s how I’ve been my whole career. Just keep working.”
Despite the Dolphins winning their season opener, Wallace didn’t like that only one of Ryan Tannehill’s completions landed in his arms. Wallace attempted to clarify later in the week that he was just upset at himself, but a lot of damage was done and gave the impression that he cares more about personal statistics than team success.
There was no doubt in the mind of Packers coach Mike McCarthy that Jones would take the no-catch day in stride.
“James Jones, I look at James as one of our emerging leaders on our football team,” McCarthy said. “James is extremely professional, does a lot of the little things that I don’t think the average person realizes. He puts in a lot of extra time.
“He’s a class act. I’m not concerned about that.”
McCarthy later added that “we need to get James Jones some more opportunities,” which Rodgers agreed with.
“James didn’t get targeted as many times as we would have liked,” Rodgers said. “Obviously you’ve got to try and give him the ball. But the way they were playing us, the ball was going to Jermichael and Randall a lot, and Jordy had a few more opportunities.”
Jones is making $2.95 million this season and will be a free agent in the offseason. Given that he’s 29 years old, Jones likely only has one more chance to cash in as an NFL player.
“I’m just a lead-by-example guy,” Jones said. “When it’s something to be said and I feel it’s time for me to step up and say something, I will. But other than that, I lead by example. A lot of the young guys ask me questions and I help them out, and things like that, but I’m the same guy I was last year.
“I think I took on that role last year once Greg (Jennings) and Donald (Driver) . . . Greg got hurt, and Donald wasn’t really into playing like that, so I stepped into that role last year and just help any way I can. But most of all, just stay on the grind, lead by example, hard work, let the rookies see that.”
Jones, a third-round pick by Green Bay in 2007, has never been the Packers’ receptions leader in any season. Between Cobb (2012), Nelson (2011), Jennings (2010, 2009, 2008) and Driver (2007) as the No. 1 go-to receiver in Green Bay, Jones has somewhat gotten used to not being the leading man.
“When you’ve been around here long enough and the weapons we have, you’ve got to understand that,” Jones said. “You may only get one to two passes a game, but you better make those passes big plays. So I’ve been having that same mindset since my rookie year. If it comes to me, make a big play. If it doesn’t, run your route to win, and if you don’t get it, block for your teammates.”