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Runyan Discusses Evans ‘Conspiracy Theory,’ Comeback from Concussion

One day removed from the concussion protocol, Jon Runyan Jr. helped fuel the Green Bay Packers' 200-yard rushing day against the Chicago Bears.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – It’s been one heck of a week for Green Bay Packers guard Jon Runyan, from coming back from a concussion to listening to “conspiracy” theories regarding his father’s suspension of Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans.

First, as Runyan called it, the “conspiracy theory.” During Sunday’s Buccaneers-Saints game in New Orleans, Evans set off a fight when he ran across the field and crushed Marshon Lattimore. Both players were ejected and Evans was suspended for Sunday’s game against the Packers by Runyan’s father, Jon Runyan Sr.

Runyan Sr., who started 192 consecutive games at right tackle during his playing career, was named the NFL’s vice president of rules and policy administration in 2016. To be sure, the decision to suspend Evans improved the chances of his son’s team to win a big game on Sunday. At the same time, Runyan Sr.’s ruling had to survive an appeal, which it did on Wednesday.

“He was just doing his job,” Runyan said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s been doing that job for over a half-decade now. It just so happens that we’re playing the Buccaneers this week. Everybody’s trying to make it this conspiracy theory, which it’s not. Mike Evans, he has a history with Lattimore, or so I’ve heard. This isn’t the first time and definitely wasn’t the second time that something like this has happened.”

Runyan Jr. understands what can happen in the heat of a moment. Lattimore was jawing with Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, then exchanged shoves with Bucs running back Leonard Fournette. Evans was coming to the aid of his teammates. He just went too far.

“It’s tough. He’s trying to protect his guys out there. Stuff like that, it’s hard,” Runyan Jr. said. “But my dad’s doing his job. Lapse in judgment on the field. Sometimes, that stuff happens. There’s a whole conspiracy theory going down and it’s not true. That’s just how it goes. You can’t be running 15 yards trying to head-hunt somebody when the play’s over. It is funny, though, how stuff works out sometimes.”

What wasn’t funny was Runyan suffering a concussion during the second half of the Week 1 game against Minnesota. Runyan didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday last week. He practiced on Friday, cleared the concussion protocol on Saturday and started Sunday night’s victory over the Bears.

“It was tough,” he said of the limited prep time. “On Wednesday, I was not feeling very well so I didn’t really get much studying in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I kind of just packed it into Friday, Saturday and watched a bunch of film on Sunday because we had the late game. I backloaded everything because it wasn’t working out for me at the beginning of the week.”

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If there was a silver lining, Runyan said the extra couple rest days were nice to physically recharge following training camp and the preseason.

“It was nice getting my body back,” he said. “While I was getting my body back, my mind was coming back, too, and they kind of just met at the same time. I felt really good out there.”

It showed in his play. Runyan was part of an offensive line that generated 203 rushing yards. In the passing game, he didn’t allow a single pressure.

“I think, overall, as a whole line, we played very well run and pass,” he said. “We mixed it up a lot, had a really good balance. The crazy thing is, as good as it was sometimes, there’s still a lot of room to improve. We missed a lot of big blocks that would have sprung even more big runs. I think we held up in pass protection relatively decently. They have some good pass rushers over there, but I think it was a good first win. Still a lot of stuff to keep stacking.”

Late in the game, Runyan took a peek at the scoreboard and saw the Packers had 193 rushing yards. A 100-yard day is pretty good; being so close to 200 yards in a rivalry game provided the juice for one last push.

“You don’t really go into a game thinking, ‘Let’s rush for 200 yards,’” Runyan said. “There was no real emphasis that we had to commit to the run. Running the ball is kind of in our DNA here and what we do. When you start running the ball well and with Aaron (Rodgers) back there, he’s going to pick them apart in the play-action game. That’s what our identity is here. We just felt like we were running the ball well, so there really was no need to throw the ball. That’s something that we take pride in. Every once in a while, we’ll glance up at the scoreboard and see how things are going. It was looking pretty good and we kept stacking it and hoped to get more yards.”

Up next is a huge road test against the Buccaneers. For all the focus on Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers and the Evans suspension, the Bucs’ defense has allowed a league-low 13 points. Vita Vea is one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL, Devin White and Lavonte David are perhaps the top tandem of inside linebackers and Shaq Barrett is just a few years removed from leading the NFL in sacks. It is a great defense led by one of the top defensive minds in the NFL, Bucs coach Todd Bowles.

“It’s another opportunity against a great team,” Runyan said. “It’s reminiscent of last year. You open up Week 1, doesn’t go our way, then it’s Week 2 at home against the Lions and now we’re on the road in another tough environment like San Fran last year. We were up for that challenge. I’m sure we’ll be up for the challenge this week.”