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Packers Need Running Back; Texas’ Jonathon Brooks Crushing ACL Comeback

Given the date of Jonathon Brooks’ injury, being cleared by mid-August would have been remarkable. Brooks, however, said he is beating that timeline.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers enter the offseason with a hole at No. 2 running back with AJ Dillon set to hit free agency. One potential candidate gave an encouraging medical update at the Scouting Combine on Friday.

Texas running back Jonathon Brooks suffered a torn ACL during the Nov. 11 game against TCU. Using the rapid nine-month recovery made by Rashan Gary as a model, an optimistic scenario would have been Brooks being cleared for limited football action a couple weeks into training camp.

Brooks, however, said he is crushing his comeback.

“Expected timeline is training camp. July 1 or the start of training camp,” Brooks told reporters in Indianapolis.

A source confirmed that Brooks is on track to be cleared on July 1. That would be almost a month before training camp begins in late July.

Obviously, a lot can change over the next four or five months. And the medical staff of whatever team drafts him in April might want to approach with caution. However, if Brooks can be on the field in even a limited capacity for the start of training camp, there’s every reason to believe he could be on the field for Week 1 of the NFL season.

Even with the injury, Brooks is considered one of the best running backs – if not the best running back – in this year’s draft.

After serving as a backup to All-American Bijan Robinson, Brooks took the baton and rushed for 1,139 yards (6.1 average) and 10 touchdowns in 2023. In 10 games, he topped 100 yards on six occasions and had games of 98 and 99 yards, as well.

According to Pro Football Focus, 47 FBS-level running backs in this draft class had at least 100 carries. From that group, he ranked ninth with 3.91 yards after contract per carry and seventh with 64 missed tackles.

The timing of the injury, with Texas on the way to the College Football Playoffs and Brooks running toward All-American status and a spot at the top of the draft class, could hardly have been worse.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Brooks said on Friday. “It sucks that it happened, but it happened, so I just have to deal with what I’m given. I just have to keep my faith in God. I feel like he has a better plan for me, a bigger plan for me than I think. I just have to trust in him and believe in myself.”

With his comeback ahead of schedule, Brooks mind wind up being the first running back selected. The Packers, armed with a pair of second-round picks and both a short- and long-term need, met with him at the Combine.

In a potential complementary role to veteran Aaron Jones, Brooks is an elusive breakaway threat with excellent vision and not the Dillon-style powerhouse. However, general manager Brian Gutekunst said the No. 2 back didn’t necessarily need to be a bruiser. Moreover, whoever the Packers draft in April will be in line to be the No. 1 back in 2025.

Helping Brooks’ cause is his pass-catching ability. He caught 25-of-29 passes for 286 yards in 2023, his 1.50 yards per pass route ranking sixth of the aforementioned 47 backs.

“This is everything I dreamed of as a kid,” he told CBS at the Combine. “I just try to make a play when my number’s called. Every time I get the ball, whether it’s fourth-and-short, fourth-and-long, any type of down and distance, I’m really just looking to score the ball. I’m trying to help my team in any way possible and be elusive with the ball.”