GREEN BAY — The mystery is over as to why the Green Bay Packers put promising youngster Caleb Jones on the non-football injury list.
He had a mononucleosis.
Jones trained for the first time since September 16, opening up a three-week window available for the Packers to evaluate him and decide whether to re-add him to the 53-man roster. He trained with pads and said he felt stronger than he did before the disease hit him.
“I think today I went out there in practice and shocked a lot of people,” said Jones. “I can’t wait to see what the coaches have to say after reviewing the movie.”
Jones became a favorite of many fans when they saw potential with the 6-foot-9, 340-pound during training camp. Jones lost over 30 pounds in the spring and joined the Packers as an undrafted free agent.
Almost from the start, Jones put his long arms (36 inches) into play and great pass-blocking feeling. Throughout camp, he continued to improve, playing a steady diet of right tackle, but also taking 84 snaps at left tackle in the preseason.
The Packers decided to keep their seventh-round pick Rashid Walker over Jones in the final cut but were able to re-sign him to the practice squad. Before the regular season began, Jones received an offer to join the team’s other 53-man roster, and the Packers quickly moved to retain him, adding him to their 53-man roster.
After 2 weeks, he started to feel weak and went to see a doctor. After some examinations, it was determined that he had mono, often referred to as the “kissing disease” because it is spread through saliva (often through a glass or utensil).
“I had a really hard time explaining that to my girlfriend,” Jones joked.
For more than two weeks, he was miserable. All of his gains on the training field and in the weight room were at risk because he wasn’t able to do much.
“It was literally maybe two or two and a half weeks that I was actually out there under the weather,” Jones said. “I didn’t lose much (weight). It was one of those things where body aches were the main thing. During that time I didn’t do anything physically at all.
“The spleen gets enlarged when you become mono, so in order not to[affect]the spleen, they were like, ‘Yeah, we’re just going to stop you from being physically active and then slowly increase your activity. “
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Once Jones was back in full force, he said, he hit the weight room hard. He wasn’t allowed to practice while on the non-football injury list, so he put all of his energy into working on his body.
Although strong, Jones has plenty of room in his frame for a good weight build.
“It’s been like a minor season these past eight weeks,” he said. “I’ve been kind of training, making sure I stay on top of my weight, conditioning, and lifting like crazy. Now I feel like I’m in great shape, just strong and fast.”
Whether Jones was added to the 53-man roster remains in question. The Packers line stabilized with left tackle David Bakhtiari returning and guard Elgton Jenkins to regular action, and Josh Nijman firmly anchored at right tackle.
But if there was a need to step in or the Packers decided they wanted to see Jones in live action, he said he’d be on hand. If they chose to practice it for three weeks and then shut it down, he said he would make the most of it.
“I have to make up for lost time,” he said. “This is my rookie year, and if they keep me here to develop, I have to make sure these next few weeks, as long as I have to train, I make the most of every opportunity to develop.
“So if my number gets called next year, if that’s the plan, I’m ready. There’s no looking back after that.”