GREEN BAY, Wis. – For the first time over the season-and-a-half that COVID-19 has impacted the NFL, the Green Bay Packers are wrestling with a significant problem.
Not only has defensive coordinator Joe Barry tested positive but so has receiver Davante Adams. The Packers placed Adams on the COVID-19 reserve list on Monday. Because the All-Pro has been vaccinated and assuming he is asymptomatic, he theoretically could test negative the next two days and be available for Thursday’s game at undefeated at Arizona.
But, this quote from coach Matt LaFleur about Barry probably rings true for Adams.
“I’m not going to hold my breath on that.”
Even after subpar statistical performances against Chicago and Washington the last two games, Adams ranks second in the NFL with 52 receptions and third with 744 yards. After leading the NFL with 18 touchdown receptions last season, he’s got three this year – including the opening score against Washington.
That put Adams on a 17-game pace of 126 receptions for 1,701 yards and seven touchdowns. A couple weeks ago, he was on pace to approach the NFL record of 149 receptions, set by Michael Thomas in 2019, and beat the NFL record of 1,964 receiving yards, set by Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson in 2012. After catching “only” 10 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown the past two weeks, he had fallen off that trajectory but was still on course to break his own franchise record of 115 receptions from last season and Jordy Nelson’s mark of 1,519 yards set in 2014.
Suddenly, assuming Adams can’t play, the showdown between the Packers, who are 6-1 after winning their last six games, and the Cardinals, who have outscored their seven opponents by 15.9 points per game, has the potential of being a significant mismatch.
Lines, including at BetMGM and SI Sportsbook, have moved from 3 1/2 points to 6. That is an enormous swing; generally, only quarterbacks move the needle to such an extent.
While Arizona activated star pass rusher Chandler Jones from the COVID list on Monday, the Packers could line up without eight starters:
- The All-Pro Adams as well as Marquez Valdes-Scantling (injured reserve; hamstring) at receiver.
- All-Pro Jaire Alexander (shoulder) as well as Kevin King (out vs. Washington; shoulder) at cornerback.
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- Pro Bowler Za’Darius Smith (back) as well as Preston Smith (out vs. Washington; oblique) at outside linebacker.
- All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (PUP; knee) and center Josh Myers (injured reserve; knee).
Among Green Bay’s receivers, Adams has 52 of the 92 receptions (56.5 percent), 72 of the 133 targets (54.1 percent), 744 of the 1,230 yards (60.5 percent) and three of the eight touchdowns (37.5 percent).
Under LaFleur, the Packers are 6-0 without Adams, with two wins last year and four in 2019.
When Adams missed those two games last season with a hamstring injury, Allen Lazard caught six passes for 146 yards and one touchdown at New Orleans and Robert Tonyan had six receptions for 98 yards and three touchdowns vs. Atlanta. Coincidentally, it was those two players who had big games on Sunday to supplement Adams’ six-catch performance.
“You have to take it in stride and just approach it with positive mind and a positive attitude and just make the best of whatever situation you encounter,” LaFleur said, a quote not about Adams but one that applies.
For last season’s game at San Francisco, running back AJ Dillon was out due to COVID and fellow running back Jamaal Williams and linebacker Kamal Martin were ruled out as close contacts. The next three weeks, Dillon and linebacker Krys Barnes were out. Those were the biggest COVID-impacted games last season.
This season, the only players sidelined due to the virus have been receiver Malik Taylor and defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster. Taylor missed the last two games.
When LaFleur spoke on Monday afternoon, the only news that was available was that of Barry’s positive test. LaFleur said the team was in advanced COVID-19 protocols, meaning everyone in the football operation had to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. Game-planning meetings to get ready for Thursday were conducted virtually.
“We’re not having any in-person meetings with our players today,” LaFleur said. “I said if the guys want to, whether they voice-over and send them the video or whether they want to have Zoom meeting with their guys, they can.”
Barry will be able to participate in those game-planning meetings from home but, unless he tests negative the next two days, he won’t be on the sideline on Thursday night. Who would call the plays? Perhaps defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, who’s done it twice in his career.
“That’s something that we’re working through right now,” LaFleur said. “I think regardless of how we do it, it’ll be a collective effort with everybody involved and having an input. But you feel confident with a guy like Jerry, who’s called it before and has had a top-five defense in this league. We definitely have people that we feel are capable of getting the job done.”