Green Bay Packers receiver Allen Lazard joins Davante Adams on the COVID-19 list

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
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GREEN BAY - Life goes on in the NFL regardless of injury, pandemic or untimely act of nature, and the Green Bay Packers are not exempt from having to carry on.

They likely will have to do it again Thursday night without star wide receiver Davante Adams and definitely without key backup Allen Lazard for the Packers' showdown with the 7-0 Arizona Cardinals because both were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry also will miss the game after testing positive.

The latest development was Lazard being placed on the list Tuesday, a day after Adams went on it. Lazard, who has not been made available in person to the media, is not vaccinated and was deemed a close contact, according to NFL Network.

Even if he didn’t test positive, Lazard must quarantine for at least five days under NFL guidelines because he is not vaccinated. If he tests negative on consecutive days 24 hours apart, he can return to the team. Had he been vaccinated, he would have been eligible to play against the Cardinals, pending another negative test result.

The list of players and coaches who test positive and/or are put on the reserve list could grow because testing of the players is being done daily.

"Nobody (else) on our staff is going to be out at this point," coach Matt LaFleur said. "But as far as the protocols, we've got to continue to test. So, who knows what tomorrow will bring?"

The only potentially good news for the Packers is that they could activate No. 2 receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring) from injured reserve and they did activate backup Malik Taylor from the COVID list. The Packers don’t have to announce whether Valdes-Scantling is going to be activated to the 53-man roster until Thursday.

Packers receivers Allen Lazard (13) and Davante Adams (17) have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

"He's getting better and better," LaFleur said. "And he's running every day. He's working hard to be back out there. And it's just going to be a matter of where he is on game day."

Nobody is going to put an asterisk next to a game that could determine home-field advantage in the NFC when the postseason begins just because Adams and Lazard are out and Barry won’t be present because of COVID-19. The game will go on no matter how many players and coaches wind up on the list.

“That's just the way this league works,” receiver Randall Cobb said. “You know, it doesn't care. It doesn’t matter.

“When Aaron (Rodgers) broke his collarbone a few years back, anybody stop playing? When guys go out in this league that are 'the guy,' it's like the NFL continues to go on.”

When Rodgers is that guy, the Packers aren’t particularly successful. They are 5-11-1 in the 17 regular-season games he has missed due to injury.

But when Adams has been out they are 9-2 dating to the 2015 season when he missed his first three games because of an ankle sprain. The only two games they have lost with him out (concussion) came at the end of the 2017 season when the Packers were out of the playoff race and sat Rodgers for both games.

Most recently, they went 2-0 last year when he sat out with a hamstring injury and were 4-0 in 2019 when he was sidelined by turf toe. It’s a well-known stat in the receiver room that the Packers have won six straight without him, but it exists more as a symbol of what the collective can accomplish than a slight toward Adams.

“I think that's a testament to this team,” Cobb said. “Knowing this offense and the way it goes, he's a huge piece of it. But we have to fill in, there's other guys who have to step up and make plays in different situations and run the ball and establish and put ourselves in situations to convert on third downs and get in the red zone and score points.”

Rodgers admitted Tuesday that there was a bit of a shock factor that he and others had to get over upon hearing that Adams had tested positive. He said he held out hope for a while that it was a false positive.

He said Adams is extremely disappointed, but physically was doing OK.

More: Packers WR Davante Adams, defensive coordinator Joe Barry test positive for COVID-19

More:Aaron Rodgers leads Packers past Washington 24-10 for sixth straight victory

More:Packers deliver in the clutch and can turn their focus to showdown at Arizona

Once the shock subsided, the offensive players began processing a game plan different than the one that features a guy who ranks tied for second in the league in targets (73), second with 52 catches and third in receiving yards with 744. Adams has accounted for a third of the team’s receptions and nearly half its passing yards and went through a three-game stretch from Week 3-5 in which he was targeted 45 times and caught 29 passes.

Even when he caught just four for 89 against Chicago and six for 76 against Washington, he contributed critical plays that helped win the game.

The problem is that when Adams was out, the Packers were able to win behind the performance of players like Lazard and Valdes-Scantling. Lazard had a breakout game against New Orleans (six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown) last year and Valdes-Scantling had one against Oakland (two catches for 133 yards and a touchdown) in ’19 while Adams was on the sideline.

If Adams, Lazard and Valdes-Scantling are all out, the Packers’ top receivers are Cobb, Equanimeous St. Brown, rookie Amari Rodgers, Taylor and practice squad player Juwann Winfree.

In assessing how the Packers were able to overcome the absence of Adams during LaFleur’s time, he pointed to the diversity of the offense and the ability to take advantage of other options in the offense. The Packers still have solid offensive options in running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon and tight ends Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis.

In fact, it was during one of the games Adams didn’t play in ’19 that the Packers found out what kind of receiver Jones could be out of the backfield. In a 31-24 victory at Kansas City, Jones caught seven passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns, and it propelled him to the best receiving numbers of his career.

Similarly, the Packers found out what Tonyan could give them when he caught six passes for 98 yards and three touchdowns in a Week 4 victory over Atlanta. He went on to have a breakout year with a career-high 11 touchdowns.

The problem is that the Packers are not playing a team whose defense was beat up like the Saints last year or a team without its starting quarterback like Kansas City two years ago. They are not playing a terrible Falcons team, either.

They are playing against a Cardinals team that ranks tied for first in fewest points allowed, fourth in fewest yards allowed, first in third-down defense and fourth in sacks per attempt. Arizona activated starters Chandler Jones and end Zach Allen from the COVID-19 list this week and will be far closer to full strength than the Packers' offense.

The one thing the Packers have going for them without Adams is that the Cardinals are less likely to play the entire game with two safeties planted deep in the secondary, which is what teams play to make sure that Adams is double-teamed.

Of course, it also means they’ll probably bring one of those safeties up to make sure Jones and Dillon don’t hurt them in the run game, so LaFleur will have to construct a game plan that takes advantage of some of the one-on-ones the receivers will see. But those one-on-ones don’t mean much if the receivers aren’t winning them.

“If we have to go with some of the young guys, we’ll have the same expectations,” Rodgers said. “Matt does a good job schematically with man coverage. I would assume that there won’t be anybody specifically that they’re going to double.”

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