GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones said he deserved the scolding he got from Aaron Rodgers, shrugging off any temporary tension as a sign of two players showing their competitive nature.
Jones took responsibility for not making the right route adjustment on a play during Thursday night's victory over the Chicago Bears, which led to an interception. Jones said he and Rodgers already had talked about it.
"He apologized, said he's sorry for showing his emotions," Jones said. "But I was like, (there's) no need to apologize. We're trying to win. I messed up. Frustration happens. It's all good. No love lost. We're teammates. We're family in here. Like I said, everybody's trying to win."
Jones took the blame for miscommunication on the play.
"It was my fault," Jones said. "I gave him mixed signals. I mean, we're all emotional out there, man. It's common, man. We do a lot of head gestures and stuff like that, the camera may not just be on us. Me and him, we're both competitive, we're trying to win. It was my fault. We don't ever want to turn the ball over. I'm not mad at him. Shoot, we're trying to win, man. Get on me. I messed up. "
Jones' minor run-in with Rodgers during Thursday's game was overshadowed at the time by the conduct of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was sacked seven times by the Packers and showed displeasure toward his offensive line throughout the game.
Rodgers was not present when the Packers' locker room was open to reporters Tuesday. He is expected to conduct his usual media availability later in the week.
Jones says there's no reason for anybody to think twice about Rodgers' leadership skills.
"For people to question his leadership is ridiculous," Jones said Tuesday, as the Packers began preparations for a Monday night game at Seattle. "He's a natural-born leader, not just by what he says, but how he carries himself, how he plays the game, how he handles certain situations. Everybody in this locker room looks up to him as a leader. Everybody in this locker room believes in him."
Given Rodgers' place as the NFL's reigning MVP, now might seem like an odd time for his leadership skills to come into question — even with the Packers' offense getting off to a surprisingly slow start in the first two games of the season.
But to some extent, that's what happened in the wake of Thursday's game. The agent who represents Packers tight end Jermichael Finley caused a minor stir by posting a message on his Twitter account that appeared to question Rodgers' ability to lead.
Agent Blake Baratz wrote a post praising the leadership of several elite NFL quarterbacks and criticizing Cutler, who Baratz wrote "doesn't get it."
When asked by a fan why Rodgers wasn't on his list of leaders, Baratz replied that Rodgers "is a great QB he isn't a great leader. There's a major difference. Leaders take the blame (and make everyone) better. He doesn't."
As his comments gained traction among Packers fans, Baratz wrote a subsequent post apologizing to Finley, saying the player "had nothing (to do with my) comments or opinions."
Finley was not present when the Packers' locker room was open Tuesday.
The mini-controversies were a byproduct of a more concerning trend for the Packers, who have not yet met their typically high offensive standards.
"It's a lot of little things," Jones said. "We're missing a lot of easy plays out there, whether it's making a routine catch, whether it's making a tough catch, whether it's making a key block. We're very close to being explosive. We're very close to having 21 more points up against the Bears. We've just got to stay on course, man. Keep grinding, keep working, we'll break through one of these games."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said it was too early in the season to discern trends but did acknowledge that the offense needs to improve.
"We'll play better on offense," McCarthy said. "I'm confident with that."
McCarthy didn't directly express concerns about the play of Finley, who continues to show flashes of talent and inconsistency. McCarthy said only that the Packers need to do a better job holding onto the ball as a team.
"Handling the football as a team is definitely a focus this week," McCarthy said. "We haven't caught the ball as well as we need to, we've dropped a couple of interceptions, we had the ball on the ground probably one or two many times.
"On defense, we need to get the ball out. Defense and our coverage units, we need to get the ball out, get the ball out from our opponent. Those are the type of things that we're focusing on, and once again, it always goes back to the fundamentals."
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