GREEN BAY - In late August, as training camp neared its conclusion, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sang the praises of wide receiver Jared Abbrederis for what felt like the umpteenth time.
At that point, as fans and writers pondered how many receivers general manager Ted Thompson would keep, Abbrderis was on the verge of completing the first full training camp of his professional career. By default, it was also his best. And it was, quite possibly, the best of any receiver on the roster.
“The biggest thing for him has always been his availability, because his talent is evident,” Rodgers said. “When he's on the field, he's tough to guard, he makes a lot of plays, he catches the ball very well, he runs great routes. It's never been about that. His talent is NFL-level talent, and he has the opportunity to not only make plays, but to do it consistently beyond the field.
“The biggest difficulty has always been his availability, being able to stay on the field through his injuries, concussions and stuff. I'm really proud of him. He has a great approach to the game. He's very intelligent. Obviously very skilled, but he has a great approach. He works every single day, and he's always kind of in my hip pocket, asking good questions. He's had a great camp, and I'm really proud of him.
In early October, as the Packers regroup from an early bye, Abbrederis has extended his run of injury-free football. He is healthy, devoid of bumps and bruises, eager to contribute after an eye-catching performance from May through August.
But playing time has evaded Abbrederis through the opening month of the season, and his situation reached its nadir in Week 3 against the Detroit Lions. After playing only 20 combined snaps during the first two weeks, Abbrederis did not receive a single snap from scrimmage in a win over the Lions
“It’s hard,” Abbrederis said Thursday. “Mentally you’ve got to stay in it and stay ready and positive. You can’t think about all the stuff like that, so you just try to stay as ready as you can and even-minded as possible.
“I mean it’s tough, but that’s just what you have to do. It’s part of your job. Just be ready when you get called up.”
A year ago, Abbrederis began on the practice squad after a significant concussion during training camp sidelined him for a month. He was promoted to the active roster on Oct. 3, where he replaced defensive tackle Bruce Gaston.
Abbrederis carved out a niche role after four weeks of minimal involvement. He played 19 snaps in Week 10 against the Detroit Lions, catching four passes for 57 yards, and from that point forward he received double-digit snaps in each of the remaining six games he played. He caught at least one pass and had at least two targets in every game but one during that stretch.
In the playoffs, Abbrederis' contributions boomed. He played 99 snaps in the regular season and 100 in the two playoff games alone, when injuries to Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery ravaged the Packers' receiving corps.
But all of that is far in the past. What is Abbrederis' role now?
“I mean, it’s still early in the season,” Abbrederis said. “So we’ll see as the season unfolds what that role may be.”
For now, his only tangible contributions have come on special teams, where he played 11 snaps against Jacksonville and 13 against the Minnesota Vikings.
But even those opportunities have dwindled, and Abbrederis played only 8 snaps against the Lions in Week 3. The return of special teams ace Jeff Janis, who is cast-free for the first time since breaking his hand in mid-August, is likely to shrink those chances even more.
Patience — and playing time — are at a premium.
“We’ve got a lot of talented receivers,” Abbrederis said. “We’ve got a lot of talent at other positions too, so whatever the game plan is you just prepare like you’re going to be a starter and whatever happens, happens.
“When you’ve got guys in the room like Jordy, Davante and Cobb and the rest of those guys, you kind of expect those guys — obviously they’ve proven and they’ve done their job. Like I said, you’re just ready for whenever you get in there.”