GREEN BAY - This season, Packers wide receiver James Jones put up career highs in catches, receiving yards and his career-best 14 touchdown catches led the NFL. Turns out, he had someone in his ear encouraging him every step of the way. Literally.
"I'm constantly out there talking to myself,” said Jones.
Jones says he thrives off his coaches, whether it’s Green Bay wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett or one of his college coaches. During the season, however, he could see himself slipping, routes suffering, focus waning.
This off -season one of his former coaches from San Jose State suggested turning up the vocal volume on the field, reminding himself of all the little things he needs to do to be successful.
“[He said] tell yourself every play, ‘stay in your stance, get in and out of your breaks, stay low, focus, look the ball in,’” said Jones.
Jones says he's "not whispering," and will talk during huddles, getting lined up and coming back from routes. Teammates have noticed his newly talkative nature.
"It's funny when you catch a guy talking to himself, it's like, 'what are you doing?’” said receiver Greg Jennings.
Jones says even opponents have checked on his, well, sanity at times.
“Jabari Greer from the Saints asked me, 'hey, are you alright?'” said Jones. “I'm like, 'I'm good.’”
The results have been clear. Jones has stayed healthy all 16 games, which has provided plenty of opportunities, and he’s cashed them in more often than not..
"His approach is great,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “He's been healthy; he's the only one of that group able to play every game. He's made the most of the balls that have come his way."
As good as the self-service vocal reminders are, a physical reminder is even better.
"I got my little band here,” said Jones, pointing to a black wrist band. “It says 'remember why you do it.' It has my son and my wife's initials on the back . If I come out here, don't take practice serious, don't take the game serious, I go out there and drop the ball, I feel like I'm letting them down."
Jones, who hopes to one day be mentioned among the NFL’s elite wide receivers, will continue reminding himself of the little things, and never forgetting his family, as he and the Packers continue their playoff run.