GREEN BAY — Davante Adams needed to watch the film.
Not to see whether his fellow Green Bay Packers wide receiver and buddy Jake Kumerow looked like himself in practice. Adams was sure he would.
Adams merely wanted to see just how giddy the former UW-Whitewater standout was to be back on the Don Hutson Center field after spending the first 11 weeks of the season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
“I’m sure on the film, you’ll be able to see (how happy he is),” Adams predicted as the Packers (4-5-1) prepped for Sunday night’s pivotal game at the Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1). “He’s kind of got a little bounce where he gets happy and starts bouncing around like a little kid. I’ll look for that and let you know.”
There’s no guarantee Kumerow, who was designated for return on Monday and took part in Thursday morning’s Thanksgiving Day practice in pads, will be active for Sunday night’s game. He’s eligible, having spent the requisite eight games on IR, but the Packers aren’t required to shift him onto the 53-man roster immediately.
“We’ll see how the week goes,” coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday morning.
But the Packers clearly intend to get Kumerow back on the field after his impressive preseason, since they opted to use the second of their two IR/return tags on him. And both Adams, who mentored Kumerow this offseason, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who formed an on-field bond with Kumerow in training camp, believe he could give a lift to the passing game, which has languished amid injuries to Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison.
Cobb has missed five of the team’s past seven games with a hamstring injury and may not play Sunday night, and Allison is on IR following core muscle surgery that McCarthy confirmed Thursday was season-ending. Rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown have flashed but have been inconsistent since taking on greater roles.
“I’m happy for Jake. He was a baller in camp. I think everybody saw that,” Adams said. “To be able to have him back now is going to mean a lot to this team. I know he’s been waiting on it for a while, too, so he has a lot of rage and some plays he’s ready to unleash for y’all.”
And as if the team’s No. 1 receiver saying Kumerow’s return is “going to mean a lot to this team” isn’t sufficient praise, Rodgers went so far this week to half-kiddingly say Kumerow’s return could be the “galvanizing moment” the team has been seeking before adding, “He understands the game, he has a great sense about him. In space, he can get open. He was incredible in training camp earning a spot on the squad. … It will be nice to get him out there and get him some opportunities.”
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Kumerow caught six passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns in just two preseason games before suffering a sprained SC joint in his right shoulder when he dove across the goal line at the end of an 82-yard touchdown against Pittsburgh on Aug. 16. The Packers kept him on the roster at the final cutdown, then placed him on IR so he’d be eligible to return during the season after the way he’d impressed coaches and teammates alike throughout the summer.
“As a head coach, when it comes time to pick the 53, you want to pick the 53 guys that earned the opportunity to be on the team,” McCarthy said Thursday. “Now, there’s other things that go into the equation of who actually makes it at the 53 … but I clearly think Jake, he was an example of a young man, he earned a position on the 53. Now, obviously, injuries are part of the game and it worked out the way it did. But I thought he had a heck of a preseason.”
Kumerow, who finished last season on the practice squad after spending 2015 and 2016 on Cincinnati’s practice squad, got the news Monday from John Wojciechowski, the team’s co-director of player personnel. The Packers had used their first return designation on kick returner Trevor Davis, and truth be told, Kumerow wasn’t sure if he’d get the call.
“He came up to me and said, ‘Hey, are you ready to practice this week?’ I said, ‘Hell yeah!’ I feel ready to go,” Kumerow said. “I’ve been doing all I can, waiting for my time, my opportunity. You can’t jump the gun. You’ve got to be patient sometimes. I was just waiting for the opportunity and now they have me back practicing and I’m feeling good. Legs are fresh.”
Kumerow, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2015 after a record-setting career at Whitewater, is still technically a first-year player because he has never appeared in an NFL regular-season game. The closest he came was being promoted to the Bengals’ 53-man roster for the final week of the 2016 regular season, but he was inactive on game day.
Now, his first game — and first NFL regular-season catch — might be right around the corner.
“I’m excited,” Kumerow said. “Having them bring Trevor back first, obviously he plays the same position as me, but you can’t let it bother you. You never know what their next move is going to be upstairs, so you always have to be ready. They think I can help the team out. I’m just here to help the team any way I can.”
As expected, tight end Jimmy Graham (thumb) took part in practice with his broken thumb heavily taped. He’ll experiment with other splinting options on Saturday in hopes of playing Sunday night, McCarthy said. “It usually takes the week to get it right,” McCarthy said. … Safety Kentrell Brice (ankle) did not practice after taking part on a limited basis Wednesday. … Cornerback Kevin King (hamstring) once again didn’t practice and appears likely to miss his third straight game. … Cobb remained limited and was on an elliptical machine after taking a few reps in individual drills during the portion of practice open to reporters. … Running back Tra Carson (rib) was added to the injury report.