GREEN BAY, Wis. – While Davante Adams and the rest of the Green Bay Packers’ veteran receivers have skipped the voluntary practices, they haven’t skipped the entire offseason program.
“Up until two weeks ago, we were doing virtual and they were doing everything, showing up for every meeting,” receivers coach Jason Vrable said on Thursday, a break in Week 2 of organized team activities. “I love all those guys. They're great men and great players. Obviously, I want them here because, both on and off the field, they make us better.”
Without Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Equanimeous St. Brown and Devin Funchess, the Packers had only six receivers for the three practices last week. The addition of speedster DeAndre Thompkins bumped that number up to seven for practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of this week.
For offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, the glass is almost always at least half-full. So, he saw the bright side in not having his accomplished fleet of receivers on the practice field, even if it left the offense short on numbers at a physically demanding position.
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“When you have people that aren't there, it gives other people some opportunities to do some things,” Hackett said. “We’ve been able to utilize some tight ends in situations and that can happen in a game (and) that has happened in a game before. If certain people go down, sometimes a tight end has to go in and take the role of a wide receiver. So, I think we just try and be creative and we’re going to use everybody that we have in different personnel groupings and putting different people out there. We’re still doing as much as we think is appropriate for this time of year, and we’re just trying to utilize different people in different spots and seeing what those guys can do with different routes and all kinds of different concepts for them.”
Just how anonymous is the group of receivers catching passes from Jordan Love, Blake Bortles and Kurt Benkert?
Malik Taylor, Reggie Begelton and Juwann Winfree were with the team last season. They’re joined by Chris Blair, third-round rookie Amari Rodgers, undrafted free agent Bailey Gaither and Thompkins. Of the six, only Rodgers was drafted. Combined as professionals, they have caught five passes for 66 yards. Those were all by Taylor last year, when he played 166 snaps. Winfree played eight, Begelton played two and Blair was out of the league as an undrafted rookie but signed a futures deal with the Packers on Jan. 8. Of the new faces, Blair and Gaither had impressive catches at Wednesday’s practice.
“We have three guys who kind of have the veteran presence and have been great in the room,” Vrable said. He added, “The standard's set in our room, and we try to hold that standard. These guys have done a great job buying in and understanding what we're looking for as a coaching staff. We have that motto just to not blink, and that's kind of the way we’ve got to move forward with everything.”
For next week’s mandatory minicamp, the team will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Will Aaron Rodgers be there, and will he be joined by Adams and the other veterans?
“I’m excited for them for the future and hopefully next week they show up and we'll be ready to roll,” Vrable said.