Marquez Valdes-Scantling escapes serious injury, returns to make big catch
GREEN BAY - At first, Marquez Valdes-Scantling thought he might be seriously injured.
It was late in Monday’s first half against the Detroit Lions. Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones had just been tackled into the back of Valdes-Scantling's left leg. The tall, lanky receiver folded backward like a lawn chair, so violently it was painful just to watch.
“When it first happened,” Valdes-Scantling said, “I was a little afraid. I was on the sideline kind of just trying to move it around, jog around. It was a little numb.”
In that moment, it didn’t seem like Valdes-Scantling returning to the game would be possible. Instead, Valdes-Scantling hobbled up to his feet after being down on the field for a few moments, then walked to the sideline without assistance. After jogging around, the feeling started coming back to his legs. They hurt, of course, but not enough to keep him off the field.
Valdes-Scantling returned in the second half, and he was useful. His 46-yard reception to start the fourth quarter didn’t result in points – the drive ended with an interception off fellow receiver Darrius Shepherd’s facemask – but it continued a trend early in his career.
With that catch, it was the seventh game in 21 that Valdes-Scantling has had a catch of at least 40 yards. Valdes-Scantling didn’t seem to think much of that one-third ratio, but it’s clear he has developed into a bona fide deep threat.
“I definitely had to make an adjustment,” Valdes-Scantling said. “Obviously, you know, with the defender right at my back, I had to do a good job of keeping him there. Kind of boxed him out while I was running, so I could keep him between me and the ball.”
Rookie's rough night
Rookie receiver and kick returner Darrius Shepherd had a forgettable evening Monday, fumbling a punt away and then having an Aaron Rodgers pass deflect off his face and into the arms of a waiting Lions defender.
“It was a tough deal,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said Tuesday. “I think, obviously, on the punt return, he's gotta make a better decision. He was out of position for catching the ball and we never want our punt returner putting their hands over their head to catch a football. If you ever get in that position, either try to get out of the way or he's gotta, at worst-case scenario, fair catch that.
“And then the other one is just one of those deals where he's running that out route and you can tell he kinda slipped at the tail end of that route and the ball just went right off his face and into the arms of the defender."
Shepherd played with 29 offensive snaps against the Lions, eight more than the previous three games combined. He caught one pass for one yard. With the Packers’ Monday release of kick returner Tre Smith, Shepherd was the primary kick returner as well and brought five kicks out for an average of 17.4 yards per return.
“I think he'll learn from it,” LaFleur said. “He'll bounce back. He's tough-minded and all you can do is move forward.
Smith pokes fun with sack dance
Za’Darius Smith has unveiled a new celebration after his sacks this season and on Monday night his performance piece was bit of dig at himself.
After bringing down Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford in the second quarter, Smith fell to the turf as if he were sleeping, then woke up and pantomimed getting dressed.
“(Monday) morning I didn’t know we had field goal block for special teams and I was in the hot tub and I was late,” Smith said. “Preston (Smith) sent me a text message like we need to be in there but the same time I wanted to make a joke out of it. I paid my fine but to still wake up late, to say I woke up late, put my pants on, put my shirt on and still got to work on time.”
Smith acknowledged he was fined for being late.
Za’Darius Smith now has six sacks on the season and has brought down an opposing quarterback in four of the Packers’ six games. Preston Smith has seven sacks, giving the Packers two players with six or more sacks in the first six games for the first time since the NFL began recording the statistic in 1982.