Ask Jared Abbrederis about this training camp, and his face lights up. He feels good. Healthy. Finally.
A concussion wiped out most of his training camp last season. Two years ago, Abbrederis tore his ACL in the first week, an injury that forced him to miss his rookie season. So Abbrederis – knock on wood – has plenty of reason to smile about good health.
For the first time Sunday night, the former Wisconsin receiver will participate in the Green Bay Packers' annual Family Night.
“It’s a fun night,” Abbrederis said. “It’s another night for us to get better.”
Abbrederis can use every chance he gets. He is in the midst of the Packers' fiercest training-camp battle, jostling to earn a job on a crowded receiver depth chart. There are seven receivers drafted by general manager Ted Thompson, and each could make the 53-man roster.
One, maybe two, could end up being an odd man out.
Unintended or not, coach Mike McCarthy offered another reminder of the receiver battle’s intense nature Saturday morning. It’s McCarthy’s job, along with his staff, to figure out roles for each receiver on the final roster.
Tom Silverstein and Michael Cohen discuss the Packers' Saturday practice.
“You’d like to think you can have six receivers coming out of (camp),” McCarthy said, “but that’s really the players who decide that. Maybe it’ll be five. So you want to be able to rule those guys in there. Something we’ve done a very good job of – and it starts with player acquisition – is receivers play all four positions. We have a couple guys who can play five positions, talking about Randall (Cobb) moving back to the backfield, things like that.
“We want to make sure we have five or six that can play all four positions.”
Five or six. No mention of seven. Roster decisions are general manager Ted Thompson’s to make, not McCarthy. Still, the head coach’s argument carries significant weight.
Perhaps something has to give.
Through camp’s first few days, Abbrederis is doing everything he can to avoid being the casualty of a deep roster. With receivers Davante Adams and Jeff Janis off to slow starts in team periods – reminder: it’s very early – Abbrederis has shown why the Packers patiently waited for him to get healthy each of the past two preseasons.
On Saturday, Abbrederis made a pair of difficult catches in the Packers' red zone drills. One touchdown might not have actually been a catch. Abbrederis grabbed the football over linebacker Joe Thomas in the back of the end zone, but appeared to have one foot out of bounds.
Abbrederis also beat undrafted rookie cornerback Makinton Dorleant to the flag, laying out to catch quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ well-placed pass.
“You have to come down with all the ones that he throws, especially,” Abbrederis said, “because you have to gain that trust with him.”
It’s fitting Abbrederis’ diving touchdown came one rep after fellow receiver Jeff Janis dropped a pass that hit his hands.
Rodgers’ throw was behind Janis, forcing his receiver to turn almost 180 degrees. Still, Janis adjusted well enough for the football to smack both hands. He just couldn’t hold on.
After the play, Rodgers first offered Janis an encouraging clap. He shared a few words when Janis returned to the huddle.
“He just came up to me and said, ‘Great route,’” Janis said. “The ball was a little behind me. It’s one of those things, you try to make the catch, and I didn’t. But it’s kind of a nice feeling when he comes up afterward and says ‘Hey, good route.’ That’s a confidence builder right there.”
Even more of a confidence builder when a receiver hangs on to the football, no matter how difficult the catch. On the next rep, Abbrederis did. It’s still July, too early in camp for roles to be won or lost. Regardless, it’s fair to wonder how those little moments play into a quarterback’s thinking.
Abbrederis wasn’t perfect Saturday. He said there was one touchdown he should’ve caught, but didn’t.
“As a competitor,” Abbrederis said, “that’s kind of what you’re thinking. You’re not thinking of all the good plays, you’re thinking of what you could do more. There’s always something to improve on.”
A competitor also wants to be on the field, in the hunt. Finally, Abbrederis is there. He’s healthy, available. That, he said, is most important.
“It feels good,” Abbrederis said. “Just got to keep it going.”
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