Jake Kumerow photo

“I'm just trying to bust my butt, mentally, physically. Be in the best position to catch the ball for (Aaron Rodgers),” Packers wide receiver Jake Kumerow said.

GREEN BAY — Knowing the demanding, exacting standards Aaron Rodgers holds his wide receivers to — and that the Green Bay Packers’ two-time NFL MVP quarterback isn’t the type to hand out plaudits that haven’t been earned — the fact that Rodgers brought up Jake Kumerow’s name unprompted Friday shows just how impressive the former UW-Whitewater wide receiver has been in camp.

Rodgers, speaking to reporters at his locker, was in the middle of an answer about how the Packers’ defense under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has been intercepting him more than has happened in past summers when he pivoted to praising Kumerow, who has gotten a lot of snaps with the No. 1 offense after having a strong offseason and getting off to a fast start in camp.

“It’s fun to see the young guys step up,” Rodgers said as he changed subjects. “You know, I think Jake Kumerow has had a fantastic camp. I think you have to spotlight him.

“He’s made a ton of plays, did it all spring and summer and now he’s getting reps with me and making a ton of plays. He’s running the right route all the time and making contested catches and putting the ball away. It’s been pretty impressive for a guy from a small school in Wisconsin.”

Kumerow first started drawing teammates’ and coaches’ attention during the offseason program and his previous NFL experience surely has helped him hit the ground running in camp — as compared to the teams’ three rookie draft picks at wide receiver, all of whom have had their ups and downs.

Kumerow spent the 2015 and ’16 seasons on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad and finished last season on the Packers’ practice squad before re-signing with the team after the season. He spent one game on the Bengals’ 53-man roster in 2016 but has yet to play in a regular-season game.

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin acknowledged that Kumerow must continue to perform as the lights get brighter, starting with tonight’s Family Night practice inside Lambeau Field and carrying through the preseason games, which kick off Thursday when the Packers host Tennessee. But Philbin also was clear why Kumerow’s play “catches everybody’s eye.”

Now add Rodgers to the fan club list. Kumerow had another strong practice Friday, connecting with Rodgers on a deep ball on a slant-and-go and caught several other passes from Rodgers during 11-on-11 periods.

“It’s great to hear,” Kumerow said when told of Rodgers’ praise. “I’m just trying to bust my butt, mentally, physically. Be in the best position to catch the ball for him.”

Asked if Rodgers’ perfectionist nature ratchets up the pressure on him, Kumerow said no.

“Maybe a little, but not really, because at the end of the day, a slant’s a slant. If you’ve got to run a route, you run a route,” he said. “I just try to do it the same way I’ve always done it and just try to get open for him. Try to have him look my way.

“You’ve got to find a way to get in there (with Rodgers), and when you are in there, you can’t mess up. You’ve got to be on point with the routes and you’ve got to be on point with your spot. In order to have him trust you, he’s got to feel like he’s going to know you’re in the right spot. I just try to be in the right spot.”

Making it look easy

Rodgers’ no-look touchdown pass to Geronimo Allison during Thursday’s practice was still creating a buzz 24 hours later. Rodgers, who got the defense to jump offside and was rolling and looking to his left before uncorking a 26-yard, fourth-and-10 touchdown strike to Allison on the right side of the field, said he took a page out of his predecessor Brett Favre’s playbook on the throw. He also said because it was a free play, he would have attempted it in a game, too.

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“Oh yeah. I have done things — maybe not that drastic of left hash, looking significantly left — but I’ve thrown many passes like that in games,” Rodgers said. “I stole that from ‘Farvey.’ He was pretty damn good at that too.”

As remarkable as the throw was, though, Rodgers said it had actual value beyond the “Wow” factor. For one, it was a teachable moment for new players — even veteran tight ends Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis — who’ve never been involved in a free play like that with him.

“It’s about being on the same page as the guys,” Rodgers said. “We need plays like that for Jimmy and Marcedes and the young guys to watch kind of what it looks like and what my movement, how that affects the routes of the receivers and what areas of the field can I put the ball in.”

Rodgers also saw the play as a confidence booster for an offense that has been challenged more by Pettine’s defense in practice than it had been by Dom Capers’ defenses in recent years.

“I don’t know if the degree of difficulty was super high,” Rodgers said. “ ‘G-Mo’ obviously knows I’ve done stuff like that, similar to that in practice before but it’s fun to let those defensive guys know that I can still do those types of things.

“They’re just so multiple (on defense). They have a lot of different pressures and types of pressures. I don’t know how it’s going to sound, (but) they’re giving you pressures where they can actually get home. We haven’t had that issue in a while, where they scheme up pressures to have a free guy on the play. (We) haven’t had that with our defense before, so the protection elements for offense are really challenged by his defense, which is great for us. It’s great practice for us.

“And on the back end, they run a number of different coverages, so there’s different looks. We’re not just seeing the similar stuff, guys in stationary positions. They’re moving around, they’re disguising coverages.”

Backfield thinned

Second-year back Devante Mays had his first big play of camp when he beat the defense to the edge and took off on a touchdown run during the 11-on-11 period, but near the end of the run, he pulled up with what appeared to be a leg injury. He left practice and did not return.

After Mays departed, the Packers were down to just four running backs in halfbacks Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery and Joel Bouagnon, and fullback Aaron Ripkowski. Running back Aaron Jones remained sidelined with the hamstring injury he suffered last week, and fullback Joe Kerridge (shoulder) also did not practice, so it’s unclear how many backs will be available for Family Night.

“We know they’ll get back eventually,” Montgomery said. “But for the guys that are there now — me, Jamaal, Rip, Joel — we’re just going to make the most out of the reps we get.”

Extra points

Defensive end Mike Daniels, who did limited work in practice Thursday as a “trial return” after missing time with a quadriceps injury sustained in practice on Monday, was back on the sideline sitting out Friday. … Wide receiver Trevor Davis (hamstring) did not practice. … Guard Lucas Patrick and wide receiver Randall Cobb each dropped out of practice. Patrick returned to practice, while Cobb came back to the sidelines after being attended to but didn’t take part in any drills. … Rookie cornerback Josh Jackson had his first interception of camp. … Graham had a number of big catches from Rodgers in the red-zone period.

Now add Rodgers to the fan club list. Kumerow had another strong practice Friday, connecting with Rodgers on a deep ball on a slant-and-go and caught several other passes from Rodgers during 11-on-11 periods.


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