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After hearing boos in Kansas City, Packers wonder how their actions to protest social injustice will be received

After hearing boos in Kansas City, Packers wonder how their actions to protest social injustice will be received

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GREEN BAY — Aaron Jones was taken aback when he tuned in just before kickoff of Thursday night’s NFL season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans and heard what he heard.

Aaron Jones mug

Jones

Boos.

The Green Bay Packers running back, who had been engaged in talks with his teammates throughout camp about how the team could protest racial inequality, social injustice and police brutality in a meaningful way, thought the Chiefs’ and Texans’ approach — a moment of silence while locked arm-in-arm, an act separate from the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” — would be well received. Instead, during NBC’s television broadcast, boos could clearly be heard from some fans in the limited crowd inside Arrowhead Stadium.

“It really caught me off guard,” Jones said Friday in advance of the Packers’ season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in Minneapolis. “(Here were) people coming together for one common goal, and during a protest, a moment of silence, people were booing.

“I think that shows they don’t have a lot of respect and they really don’t care about the name on the back of your jersey or you as a person. (That’s what) it feels like when they’re booing during those times. We know it’s not everybody out there that’s like that, so you can’t group a group of people into that.”

The Packers and Vikings won’t have that kind of instant reaction on Sunday, because there won’t be any fans inside U.S. Bank Stadium. But just as there were some fans at Lambeau Field who reacted negatively when players and coaches locked arms during the national anthem in advance of the team’s Sept. 28, 2017 game against the Chicago Bears, there surely will be some fans who will take exception to whatever the players choose to do.

“Unfortunately, you’re not going to be please everybody,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “It’s still hard for me to understand as people how you can’t put yourself into another person’s shoes and try to see everything with an open heart and an open mind. I think that’s obviously been very challenging for this country and continues to be that way.

“Until people start recognizing that and being more mindful of others and maybe some of their struggles … it is what it is. Certainly, everything that’s gone on is very, very difficult for all of us.”

Defensive tackle Kenny Clark reiterated Friday what teammates Adrian Amos, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith had said a day earlier, that the team was still talking through what type of demonstration it would like to do. Clark praised the Chiefs and Texans for being “united” and doing what they did together.

“With us, we’re still talking about everything, about what we want to do,” Clark said.

Jones, who grew up in a military family, said he wishes fans could support players without conflating their protests with disrespect for the anthem or the military. His parents served a combined 56 years in the U.S. Army — his father, Alvin Jones Sr., retired as an Army command sergeant major and his mother, Vurgess, as a sergeant major — and dating back to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem, he never understood as a Black man why some fans reacted the way they did.

“I think everybody around here, at least in our locker room, we know it’s never been about the flag and disrespecting the flag. It was about injustice, police brutality and things like that,” said Jones, who was a rookie on that 2017 team. “We knew it was never necessarily disrespecting the flag or towards the military or any of that stuff. Kaepernick let it be known when he first did it as well that what he was protesting. For me, what it was for from the beginning. I know it wasn’t disrespecting the flag.”

Making ‘right’ call?

The Packers listed offensive lineman Billy Turner (knee) as doubtful on Friday’s injury report, making it unlikely that he’ll start at right tackle against the Vikings after not practicing Friday. Turner practiced on a limited basis Thursday while wearing a bulky right knee brace.

That leaves LaFleur with a couple of options: Starting Rick Wagner, the ex-University of Wisconsin tackle who was signed in March after being cut by the Detroit Lions, or shifting one of his guards — Elgton Jenkins or Lane Taylor — out to right tackle and starting one of his backup guards such as Lucas Patrick or rookie Jon Runyan.

“That’s something we’re always going to be kind of looking at and evaluating and trying to do what’s best for us,” LaFleur said. “Billy will be doubtful for the game, and that’s where it lies.”

Wagner didn’t have a particularly strong camp after not getting any on-field work this offseason because COVID-19 forced the offseason program online. Wagner also missed a week of the truncated training camp with a left elbow injury.

“There were certainly some challenges there,” LaFleur said of Wagner’s camp. “Anytime you’re not out on the grass and not getting those meaningful reps, it does set you back. But Rick’s a pro. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him. He’s started a lot of games in this league and he’s done it at a high level. We’re trying to find the best five to go out there and compete against a very good Minnesota Vikings defense.”

The Packers ruled out outside linebacker Randy Ramsey (groin), listed defensive tackle Montravius Adams (toe) as doubtful and listed safety/inside linebacker Raven Greene (quadriceps) as questionable. Inside linebacker Oren Burks (groin) was removed from the report.

After placing pass rusher Danielle Hunter on injured reserve earlier in the week, the Vikings don’t have anyone on their report.

Nothing cooking

Jones created a bit of a stir earlier in the week when he appeared on the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” show and said his agent, Chris Cabott, was in talks with the Packers on a contract extension. Turns out, there haven’t been any significant recent developments on that front, and no new deal for the soon-to-be free agent is imminent.

“I have no clue. I haven’t talked to Chris in the past couple of days, so I’m just going to prepare for this game as any game and just go out there and focus on football,” Jones said. “And whenever Chris calls me, he calls me.”

Jones said he’s still hoping for an extension before the season ends but said he realizes that might not happen. Left tackle David Bakhtiari, who is also in the final year of his contract, said he is expecting to play out the rest of the season as well.

“We’d love to get that contract done as soon as possible, as anybody would,” Jones said. “I know it’s a process, so I’m just going to wait until it’s my time. I understand how it works.”


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