GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers can talk all they want about how much they like their young, largely unproven wide receiving corps, but the fact remains they are clearly counting on Davante Adams to be healthy, productive and the NFL star he became last season — when so many other things went wrong.
So when Adams wasn’t on the practice field for the first open organized team activity practice of the offseason last week because of a minor injury, it underscored just how vital the Pro Bowl receiver is — and not just because he caught 111 passes for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns in just 15 games last season.
“Oh yeah,” first-year coach Matt LaFleur replied when asked if Wednesday’s second open OTA practice had a different vibe with Adams back out there. “Because, I think, he sets the tone for the group. And I think his energy not only spills over, it spills over to everybody on the offensive side of the ball.
“He’s got a mentality about him. I love it, man. He’s a dog and he’s a fighter and he elevates the play of everybody around him. So, yeah — anytime we can have him out there, I know we’re going to be a better offense.”
The Packers’ depth behind Adams, having bid adieu to former Pro Bowl veteran receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb in successive offseasons, is shallow. When they lined up for their first snap of 11-on-11 team work Wednesday, it was Adams, Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling at receiver, while former UW-Whitewater standout Jake Kumerow has gotten plenty of snaps with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the 1s as well.
But there’s no question even with LaFleur bringing in a new scheme after Mike McCarthy’s firing after 13 seasons, Adams will be the focal point of the passing game. During Wednesday’s practice, much of which was dedicated to red-zone work, Adams lined up all over the field, was in motion on a regular basis and caught balls on everything from quick, short routes to down-the-field throws.
“It’s good to be out there with the team, getting some reps in, working with the new offense,” Adams said. “I know we did in (the April) minicamp a little bit, but getting some of the new things. We’ve got a lot of stuff we’re installing right now, so it’s pretty fast-paced and everybody’s still learning.”
And that includes Adams, who is entering his sixth season and is juggling the challenges of learning a new offense with being the player all the younger receivers look to for advice.
“It’s complex. There’s a lot to it,” Adams said of LaFleur’s scheme. “But it’s nothing we can’t handle. It’s really early still, so we’re still getting a good feel for how we run certain routes, the quarterback’s timing on certain (plays). But that’s what this time is for, to practice and get better and get on the same page.”
And as far as leadership? “I do everything I can. I don‘t try to do anything outside of my boundaries. I’m not trying to coach,” Adams said. “I’m out there just doing whatever I can to make sure the young guys are heading in the right direction.
“We’re all learning at the same pace right now. We’ve got a new offense and all that, so we all help one another. I try to make sure I’m guiding everybody, make sure everybody’s focused. It’s the pros so everybody for the most part can take care of that part themselves. I just do anything I can to help.”
When he returned for the
All in the quinoa
offseason program, Rodgers made note of how good running back Aaron Jones looked to him.
“I like to tease Aaron Jones from time to time. He’s the most athletic, fast guy with a little bit of a belly,” Rodgers said on April 8. “(But) he’s pretty lean this year.”
Rodgers’ eyes weren’t deceiving him. Jones said Wednesday he returned to Green Bay with a body fat percentage of 5.3%, having been over 11% last season.
His secret? Quinoa. And other smart dietary decisions.
“Eating healthy. I cut out candy, chips, all the junk foods,” Jones said. “I’ve been eating very clean – chicken, rice, sweet potatoes, steak, quinoa, things like that. Just very clean. I’m eating apples instead of candy. Apples with almond butter, rice cakes, almonds. Different things.
“I didn’t know what quinoa was until I started training for the combine. It was on my meal plan. I was like, ‘What’s quiona?’ and they had to explain it to me. I started liking it then. I always liked good food. It was just hard to put the candy down. That was the hardest part.”
Before taking questions, LaFleur opened his post-practice news briefing by paying homage to Bart Starr, the iconic Packers quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer who died Sunday at age 85.
“Obviously, he meant a lot to this organization. Not only the organization, but the NFL,” LaFleur said. “So the family is certainly on our minds.”
LaFleur said he’d never met Starr, but in addition to being amazed by all the stories about Starr’s gift for connecting with people — “Obviously he was a great player, but from what people told me, he was an even better person,” LaFleur said — he was just as in awe of the way Starr played the game from a technical, fundamental standpoint. While offenses weren’t as pass-happy as they are in today’s NFL, LaFleur, a former quarterbacks coach, was fascinated by the way Starr played the position.
“It was cool. I got to see a lot of highlights of him. I was just looking at him as a thrower, and so many characteristics that we look for in quarterbacks (today), he was showing them. That nice, wide base, a natural thrower, extremely accurate. So that was pretty cool to watch.”
Veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga didn’t take part in the 11-on-11 periods but LaFleur said there’s no injury issue with him. “It’s nothing. We’re not concerned about him. It’s just taking a little bit (of time) off,” LaFleur said of Bulaga, who did do all of the other drill work. … Defensive lineman Mike Daniels, coming off a season-ending foot injury, went through stretching and was at practice but is being held out of drills. … Center Corey Linsley missed practice but arrived at Lambeau Field in time for meetings after travel delays kept him from getting back from Ohio, where he and wife Anna had their newborn baptized over the weekend. … Former Badgers and Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien was on the sideline observing practice.