Datone Jones sheds pounds to play outside linebacker


The Packers last May declined to pick up their fifth-year option on Datone Jones, but Green Bay hasn't given up on the former first-rounder.

After switching from defensive end to outside linebacker during last year's campaign, Jones used this offseason to reshape his body in order to maximize his play at a new position.

"He'll be a free agent at the end of the year and like (Packers running back) Eddie Lacy, there's been a lot of questions about both his play on the field and his dedication off the field. So for Datone, this year, he's moving to outside linebacker from defensive end," NFL Media's Mike Garafolo told NFL HQ. "He's trimmed himself from 285 down to 270. He's in terrific shape and I was told that he actually hired a personal chef to make sure that he got down to that weight and stayed at that weight."

Switching positions in the NFL rarely goes well. Along with the weight loss, though, Jones has used the past six months to study the brass tacks of a position that will ask him to drop into coverage when he's not rushing the passer.

"I'm loving it," Jones told the team's official website in June. "A situation happens like this, you can jump in there and boom -- you could fill a role and play it. Now, I'm excited because I actually do get a full season to learn coverages, learn how to cover tight ends and running backs. Just rush from different angles."

The Packers are also moving Clay Matthews back to his natural role on the outside after the Pro Bowler spent the past season-plus at inside linebacker -- a switch he's obviously thrilled with.

"They said in January that he was going to be making that shift and they appear to be sticking to that," Garafolo said of Matthews. "... It's where he wants to be, it's what he wants to do and he's been the good soldier. He stepped inside and he filled in there when they needed him to do that. But (he's) now back at a position where he believes he can be a difference-maker. This team is looking at it almost like they're adding a new player here because they haven't had him there for the past season and a half."

With Julius Peppers set to return as well, the Packers plan to unfurl a new gaggle of pass-rushers come September. For Matthews, the move back outside makes plenty of sense -- if anything, it's overdue. For Jones, the hope in Green Bay is that a new position will finally unleash a player who the front office believes has yet to reach his full potential.

In other Packers weight loss news, Mike McCarthy said on Monday Aaron Rodgers is in "the best shape I've seen him in." The Green Bay quarterback didn't disagree with that assessment.

"I'm as light as I've been in a while but my muscle mass is as strong as it was when I was 10 pounds heavier," Rodgers said during a news conference on Tuesday.

As for running back Eddie Lacy, whose weight has been one of the biggest storylines in Green Bay this offseason, McCarthy said the conversation about Packers' body types will end there.

"Eddie is ready," the head coach said. "I'm done talking about people's weight. I felt like I gave an honest answer (last time)."