Zach Tom, Tucker Kraft Have Big Goals, Torn Pectorals

Two Green Bay Packers standouts, right tackle Zach Tom and tight end Tucker Kraft, are not practicing during OTAs due to torn pectorals. Here is their outlook for the upcoming season.
Packers TE Tucker Kraft celebrates after scoring in the playoff game vs. Dallas.
Packers TE Tucker Kraft celebrates after scoring in the playoff game vs. Dallas. / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Before Zach Tom and Tucker Kraft can take the next step in their careers with the Green Bay Packers, they’ll have to battle back from torn pectorals that will sideline them for the offseason practices.

“It sucks,” Kraft said with his left arm in a sling following Tuesday’s practice at Packers OTAs.

Both players were injured while lifting weights.

“Just a regular lift,” Kraft said. “It was my last rep of the day on bench. Nothing crazy, not heavy weight. We were speed-benching and it just popped right off the bone.”

Coach Matt LaFleur, who also is dealing with a torn pectoral sustained while lifting weights, said there is “no long-term concern” with either player. He thought both players – especially Tom, since his injury happened before the draft and Kraft’s happened about 10 days ago – could be back before the start of training camp.

“I had surgery about a month ago,” Tom said. “I was in the sling for a little bit. Now, we’re working our way back into it, doing some exercises. They said it was about an eight- to 12-week recovery from the date of surgery, so, hopefully, I should be back at least by mid-August.”

The good news is both players should be back for Week 1 of the regular season in Brazil against Philadelphia. The bad news is they are missing out on the four weeks of offseason practices to build upon their strong 2023 seasons.

Tom was nothing short of superb as the team’s starting right tackle. In 19 total games, Pro Football Focus charged him with only two sacks.

Long gone are the days when the team’s left tackle faced the opposition’s pass rusher. The Cowboys’ Micah Parsons, the Lions’ Aidan Hutchinson, the 49ers’ Nick Bosa and the Raiders’ Maxx Crosby, who finished first through fourth among edge rushers in pressures, all rush primarily against the offense’s right tackle. Tom played them all. In five total games against those players, he allowed zero sacks and one quarterback hit.

“However many sacks I gave up is too many,” Tom told Packer Central. “This was really my first year starting and I was able to go up against some of those premier guys. Learned a lot. Now, this year, come back even better. I’ve got big goals in mind for this year.”

Like what?

“Obviously, one goal is to not give up any sacks,” Tom said. “The All-Pro and Pro Bowl and all that, a lot of that is a popularity contest. I’m not really into that so, those would be nice, but I hold myself to a high standard already, so I don’t really care about those awards. I do, but I don’t really think those are the be-all, end-all of whether you played well or not. I hold myself to a high standard. I’ve just got to go out there and do it.”

Last season, the Packers rebuilt their tight end room by using a second-round pick on Luke Musgrave and a third-round pick on Kraft. While Musgrave was an instant starter, Kraft slowly grabbed hold of a role.

However, when Musgrave suffered a lacerated kidney, Kraft stepped up in a big way. Over the final seven games of the regular season, Kraft among all tight ends ranked seventh with 26 receptions and ninth with 312 receiving yards. Over the final five games, he was sixth with 21 receptions and seventh with 260 yards. He added five more catches and a touchdown in the playoffs.

Kraft isn’t looking for Pro Bowl honors. He’s not looking to post top-10 receiving totals. Rather, he wants to be a dominant blocker.

“I’m just ready to take off in this league and establish myself as a football player, really. That’s where my frustration lies,” Kraft said.

“I was really excited about this offseason – to have the whole offseason – to get running off the football again, get my second step down, my landmark. What I want to establish this year is I want to be the best Y in the outside zone – running the ball at the tight end. That’s my individual goal for the season. That just opens up so many avenues.”

As the first member of the team’s Torn Pectoral Club, Tom has taken up a leadership role. In a case of role reversal, it’s been the pupil (Tom) helping the teacher (LaFleur).

“Matt’s been doing that a lot,” Tom said. “He was calling me, texting me when he was about to get surgery, asking me how it was. We’re pretty much going through the same thing right now. I’m a little further along so I’m able to give him some pointers and tips. I’m just trying to get back as quick as possible.”

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Bill Huber

BILL HUBER

Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: packwriter2002@yahoo.com History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillHuberNFL Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and PackerReport.com. In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.