Shoulder injury could cost Packers QB Jordan Love some precious preseason playing time
GREEN BAY - After a pandemic erased his first preseason, plans to accelerate Jordan Love’s development in this training camp might be altered because of a shoulder injury.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback already lost a quarter of playing time to injury in his preseason opener against the Houston Texans. Love was sacked on his final drop back Saturday night when Texans defensive lineman Jonathan Greenard knocked the football from his hand. The contact “dinged” his right, throwing shoulder enough to not only remove him from the game at halftime despite an original plan for Love to play three quarters, but also threaten to limit him this week.
Coach Matt LaFleur said Love could “potentially” miss his second preseason start Saturday against the New York Jets.
“It’s significant enough that he could miss a couple days of practice,” LaFleur said. “We’ll see where he’s at, at the end of the week. We’re going to kind of take it day to day.”
Even if Love misses only a couple days, that absence would make him unavailable when the Packers host the Jets for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday. Aaron Rodgers, who will not play in the preseason, was expected to get the bulk of first-team practice reps against the Jets as the Packers sharpen their three-time MVP for the regular season without exposing him to hits. Still, Love’s absence would leave Kurt Benkert as their only other quarterback for those practices.
General manager Brian Gutekunst said he would meet with LaFleur on Sunday night and figure out how to bolster the quarterback depth chart.
“We’ll obviously protect the game,” Gutekunst said, “and make sure we have somebody here.”
The Packers also need to protect Love. His ideal window to develop in 2021 is now. There was a time the Packers believed they might need to prepare Love to be their starter this fall, and the second-year quarterback took almost all the reps – with starters and backups – this spring to help him prepare. That plan changed upon Rodgers’ return.
If all goes according to the Packers’ plan, these are the only meaningful snaps Love will receive until 2022. The scarcity of his snaps makes every day count even more.
Still, LaFleur said there would be no pushing Love’s shoulder to rush him back onto the field.
“I think you’re always looking at the long-term health and care of all your players,” LaFleur said. “You never want to put a guy in a position where they can’t protect themselves, or they’re at further risk for significant injury. So we would never do that. certainly, we’ll try to do everything we can not only for Jordan, but any player that is injured to get them as healthy as possible. When the doc gives them the green light, then we’ll put them out there. But until then, we would never put a guy in a situation where they could do further risk to themselves or hinder their long-term career.”
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The Packers at least have some game film to evaluate Love going forward. In his 28 snaps Saturday, Love completed 12 of 17 passes for 122 yards, one touchdown and a 110.4 rating. His lone score came on a 22-yard screen pass to rookie tailback Kylin Hill, who running backs coach Ben Sirmans said Sunday has put himself in “great position” to be third on the depth chart behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.
After watching the film, LaFleur said Love did some “great things” in his debut. Quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy said Love processed the game well at the line of scrimmage, handling his checks and communicating with his teammates before the snap.
Getsy also said Love carried what he has been working on in practice into the game.
“One of the biggest focuses we’ve had in this camp,” Getsy said, “has been dealing with his tempo, his footwork, and matching it to the rhythm of each throw. Throughout camp, he’s had really good moments, and not-so-good moments of that. Getting a good base, going through your progression with your hitches, letting your feet take you through your progression. I thought last night, almost all of them, he did a nice job.
“That was good to see when the lights came on, he didn’t lose that. because that’s been a big emphasis of ours.”
Ideally, the Packers could crescendo through this preseason, building on Love’s debut this week against the Jets. His shoulder might prevent that, potentially forcing the Packers to make more alterations to their quarterback depth chart.
“If he ends up having to miss any time,” Gutekunst said, “that would be kind of a bummer. But I think through the offseason, he’s taken a ton of reps with the ones. And then obviously this training camp has been pretty good, and last night was great to see him get out there finally and get some reps. So it wouldn’t be ideal, but at the same time we’re pretty hopeful he can get out there quick.”