GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers tight end Jace Sternberger’s career is going nowhere first.
As a third-round pick in 2019, he missed most of training camp with a concussion and the start of the regular season with an ankle injury.
In 2020, he missed a big chunk of training camp after testing positive for COVID.
And now, he was suspended by the NFL on Thursday for the first two games of the upcoming season after violating the league policy on substances of abuse. While he will be able to participate in training camp and the three-game preseason, he will miss season-opening games against New Orleans and Detroit.
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In a statement he posted on Twitter, Sternberger said he fell asleep at the wheel in February 2020 after drinking while on antidepressants. He's been going to therapy for the past 16 months.
Sternberger was supposed to be the premier tight end the team had lacked for years. Instead, he’s fallen hopelessly behind Robert Tonyan for that role. In fact, for last year’s playoffs, he was inactive in favor of Dominique Dafney, a midseason addition to the practice squad who emerged as a role player down the stretch.
Sternberger, in fact, didn’t play in any of the final six games – the four regular-season games because of a concussion and the two playoff games as a coaches’ decision. He caught 12 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown in a dozen games last season.
With Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis, the return of Josiah Deguara and the flashes shown by Dafney, Sternberger could be fighting an uphill battle to make the roster. Asked about Sternberger during a break in organized team activities a couple weeks ago, tight ends coach Justin Outten gave a lukewarm response compared to answers about his other players.
“OTAs is huge for guys like Jace and the younger guys, because you’re splitting the fields and everybody is getting the same amount of reps and getting videotaped,” Outten said as part of the accompanying video. “Just seeing his progression and wrapping his mind around the playbook, and getting the techniques down – less thinking, playing faster – those are the things that he’s continuing to work on throughout OTAs right now. He’s got his chances moving forward here like everybody else will. Just excited to see his progress.”