Packers veterans learned to balance family, preparation during pandemic
GREEN BAY - One day Aaron Jones will have quite the tale to tell his son and namesake about the conditions under which he was born in 2020.
Thanks to the COVID-19 global pandemic, this offseason has been as unconventional as it gets for the Packers' fourth-year running back and his girlfriend Crystal Molina, who welcomed their first child into the world on April 17 under very unique circumstances.
"Having a baby in the midst of a pandemic, it was a little different," said Jones on a Zoom video call with Green Bay media on Wednesday. "Most people get to have their families in the delivery room but it was just me and my girlfriend.
"I'm glad I was able to be here. He's doing great, healthy."
Aaron Jr.'s arrival is a perfect illustration of what has been an exciting, yet very unusual, offseason for Jones. With training facilities shut down due to nationwide stay-at-home orders, he has been balancing being a new dad with his training back home in El Paso, Texas.
Facing a pivotal contract year, Jones has pulled in area high school quarterbacks to throw to him, bought a JUGS machine to catch passes at home, and snuck in extra training at a local gym with his twin brother, Alvin Jr., late at night.
Their dad, in addition to feeding the JUGS machine for Aaron, rebuilt the family's garage into a makeshift gym with yoga mats, kettle bells, a ladder, resistance bands, a bench press and dumbbells.
"It's like going back to being a little kid and back in the garage with your dad working out," Jones said. "He's been there for a lot of the workouts in there, coaching me up. We've been having a lot of fun."
On the East Coast, Packers safety Adrian Amos also has been pulling double-duty. A father of two boys, Amos has learned to be "patient" balancing family time with his preparation for a sixth NFL season.
The virtual offseason program has helped bring back a sense of normalcy. Since kicking things off last month, Amos and the rest of the Packers' roster have filled their schedules with position and team meetings on Zoom.
Amos likes catching up with everyone, especially on a defense with so many returning players, but it still doesn't quite compare to the traditional OTAs and minicamp schedule.
"I was telling somebody the other day, I know a lot of people complain about OTAs, but I'm wishing I was back in OTAs," Amos said. "Just the structure and being around your teammates, even if it's only four days a week for a couple hours."
Amos has put his extra time this offseason to good use, though. Through his I'm Still Here Foundation, Amos donated $100,000 to two organizations in his hometown of Baltimore: Mount Pleasant Community Development Corporation and the Fund for Education Excellence.
Those efforts helped fund food drives in Northeast Baltimore, with Amos personally reaching out to MPCDC to see how he could help those affected by the pandemic.
"You want to effect change where you're from. You want to see people living better," Amos said. "(I) feel in a situation like this with COVID, me not being able to go to work doesn't affect me as much as it does the next person.
"I wanted to donate some money for people to have food, for children who are in households where they have to be home all day. That's more meals the parents and the families have to provide within the household."
Professionally, there's a lot at stake this year for Jones, who's coming off a career year in which he led the NFL with 16 rushing touchdowns. While the questions about being in a contract year are unavoidable, Jones says he's in a good place mentally right now.
He's enjoyed spending time with his parents and growing family. Whatever inconvenience may be felt at times with a packed household, it's a small sacrifice to keep everyone healthy and together.
"It's a lot more trash in the house than we've ever had," Jones said. "We have everybody home for the first time in a long time, so a lot more chores, a lot more dishes because you're in the house. I'm enjoying my time with my family."