GREEN BAY - As the majority of receiver-based headlines focused on Jordy Nelson’s knee and Jeff Janis’ role, Jared Abbrederis glided through the off-season in relative obscurity. He popped into the spotlight against the Arizona Cardinals and, over the next few months, receded into the background as just one of the guys at a crowded position.
But his translucence ended Thursday, the last day of mandatory minicamp for the Green Bay Packers, when coach Mike McCarthy spoke glowingly of Abbrederis and his progress.
“I think Jared had his best offseason,” McCarthy said. “I think his route running is exemplary for a young guy. His ability to recognize coverages, and his time clock, his breaking points, his ability to drop his weight. Just all the specifics and details and techniques of route running, I think he's exceptional. He just needs to continue to work on getting stronger and so forth. He plays the position technically and fundamentally at a very high level.”
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Abbrederis was among the players for whom this week’s minicamp offered an especially important opportunity. McCarthy’s decision to excuse 15 veterans freed up reps that would have been dedicated to Nelson, the team’s top receiver, and Randall Cobb, slotted second on the depth chart.
Their absences enabled Abbrederis to earn plenty of chances with the first-team offense, where he often took the field with Janis and Davante Adams. On Thursday, Abbrederis made a pair of nice catches along the sideline that flashed quickness and solid hands. Where Janis was used more vertically, Abbrederis spent the week working mostly underneath.
“I thought it was a good off-season,” Abbrederis said after Thursday’s practice. “I think understanding the playbook, obviously being here for two full seasons now you kind of come to grasp with all that. Then just trying to really learn more than what you’re doing at your position, asking why things happen, why you’re doing this, and then you can understand the playbook better. That helps you in your route, to run better routes and be in better positions.”
Aside from gaining a deeper understanding of the offense, Abbrederis spent the last few months adding a bit of muscle to his wiry frame. His goal is to maintain a playing weight of 195 pounds this season, up from the 185 or 190 he carried each of the last two years.
“Every season I feel like, especially when you go through injuries, I always lose weight,” Abbrederis said. “Being injured, that’s the hardest thing to keep that weight on. I put all the weight back on that I needed, but I still would like to gain a little bit coming up here.
“This off-season I really just tried to work on a lot of the more intricate, smaller muscles within the larger muscle groups. Just to help with injury prevention. I think a lot of times you can try to focus on the big (ones) and the ones that look good, things like that. But I really tried to focus on the more intricate ones so I can hopefully help with injury prevention that way.”
Entering his third year in the league, Abbrederis has yet to stay healthy during training camp. He suffered a torn ACL in 2014 that cost him the entire rookie season, and last year a concussion kept him out for most of July and August.
His fingers are crossed that 2016 turns out to be different.
“You can’t really control it,” Abbrederis said. “Hopefully, it will be a good training camp this year. We’ll see.”