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GREEN BAY – Two years ago, Davante Adams had a 1,000-yard season.

You might have been unaware. Adams’ 2016 season certainly isn’t remembered as that. Look at his career stats, and it doesn’t read 1,000 yards in 2016. No, Adams officially finished that year with 997. A whopping nine feet fewer.

During the Green Bay Packers' 2016 finale at the Detroit Lions, a penalty wiped out Adams’ 18-yard reception. The penalty had zero impact on the play. Adams catches those 18 yards with or without it. Regardless, 18 yards were subtracted from his season total.

Instead of finishing with 1,015, Adams had 997.

“I’m sick thinking about it,” Adams said immediately after that game.

The end of his 2018 season, with the Packers' finale again coming against the Lions but this time at Lambeau Field, really was no different. In fact, it probably nauseated Adams even more.

And it wasn’t just for the 31-0 loss, the Packers’ most lopsided defeat to the Lions inside Lambeau Field since a 40-0 drilling Sept. 20, 1970. The wins and losses of this season were rendered meaningless weeks ago. There was one tangible item Adams could still reach.

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Through 16 weeks, Adams was staring at the greatest statistical year for any receiver in the Packers’ 100-season history. With 111 receptions, he was a mortal lock to break Sterling Sharpe’s record of 112 set in 1993. He needed 134 yards to eclipse Jordy Nelson’s single-season record of 1,519 set in 2014. Considering Adams reached 130 yards in four games this season, 134 certainly was doable.

There was only one, pesky problem, seemingly insignificant. Adams injured his knee early in last week’s game at the New York Jets, but he kept playing. Not only that, but Adams finished with the game-winning touchdown in overtime, part of his 11 catches (on 18 targets) for 71 yards.

“We’ll see if we can take care of that (the record) next week,” Adams said immediately after the Packers beat the Jets.

So even though Adams’ knee injury prevented him from practicing this past week, it seemed logical he would play against the Lions. If he did, those single-season franchise records were there for the taking.

Then the inactive list was revealed 90 minutes before kickoff, and it included Adams’ name.

“We were hoping,” interim head coach Joe Philbin said. “Hey, we were going to give him the whole week and hope that. But again, the policy’s been — and it’s the right policy, you know — 46 healthy players should be playing football. And if they’re not (healthy), they shouldn’t be.

“It was really as simple as that.”

Adams was unavailable to media after Sunday’s game.

It seemed borderline inexplicable that Adams, on the verge of breaking a 25-year-old record, wouldn’t play. Philbin assured “it wasn’t that hard of a decision” to make. The Packers wanted to give their top receiver the whole week, hoping there was a last-moment change in his health status. They listed him as questionable on Friday’s injury report, perhaps more wishful thinking than reality.

Adams’ inability to play Sunday was no secret throughout the week inside the Packers' locker room. Fellow receiver Randall Cobb said he knew “a couple days” before Sunday’s kickoff.

“Obviously, he wanted to go,” Cobb said, “but it’s a lot bigger than him.”

No, this smacked of fate. How else to describe a receiver who fell 3 yards short of 1,000 ending up one catch shy of tying a franchise record? And, yes, that risks being the way Adams’ 2018 season is remembered, or at least diminishing how it otherwise would’ve been.

Never mind that Adams had five more receptions through his first 15 games than Sharpe had in 1993. Or that his 1,386 yards ranked sixth in the Packers' single-season records, while his 13 touchdowns are tied for seventh. Or that if Adams, who averaged 92 yards per game this season, had merely finished Sunday with that production, he would’ve been second in catches and third in yards.

Yet, strangely, Sunday was perhaps the greatest exhibit of how good Adams was for the Packers this season.

Adams has long discussed the blessing and curse of receiving passes from Aaron Rodgers. Any production, usually, is attributed more to quarterback than receiver. Without Adams on the field Sunday, the Packers' offense that has struggled all season completely disintegrated. For all their issues finishing drives this fall, the Packers mostly moved the football.

They ranked ninth in the NFL in total offense entering Sunday, but had only 175 against the Lions. And Rodgers’ exit with a concussion midway through the second quarter was hardly the only reason. The Packers had just 13 yards in the first quarter, when Rodgers played. He finished 3-for-5 passing with 26 yards, a paltry 5.2 average.

So if there’s a silver lining for the Packers — and they are hard to find at the end of this season — it is this: Adams, the Packers' best player this year, will be only 26 years old in 2019.

Perhaps he’ll be able to take his shot at the records then.

“He had to be devastated,” cornerback Bashaud Breeland said, “but at the end of the day, his health comes first. I would want him to be out there, and I would want him to get that record, but at the end of the day I can’t be a selfish guy and say, ‘Go out there and get this before your health.’ His health comes before anything.”

 

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