GREEN BAY — When Aaron Rodgers was asked a day earlier whether he’d considered opting out of the 2020 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers quarterback’s response was as quick as one of his releases on a throw to top target Davante Adams.
“I did not consider it,” Rodgers instantly replied on Monday afternoon. “I was always going to play.”
Adams couldn’t say the same thing Tuesday. The three-time Pro Bowl wideout and undisputed leader of the team’s receiver pack admitted with his and wife Devanne’s daughter, Daija, having arrived last September, he did mull the idea of sitting out this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty the novel coronavirus has brought with it to professional sports.
“I definitely weighed all the options and looked at everything, all the protocols and everything,” Adams said during a Zoom video conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “Obviously, here I am today. I have no plans of opting out at this point. I love the game. I love my teammates. I’ve put a lot into this. I kind of think about my legacy, everything when it’s all said and done. This is a tricky time in the world, but at the same time, it’s something that I truly believe that we cannot necessarily run from. With all the options weighed and everything taken in account, obviously I’m here and I decided to play.”
Rodgers and Packers coach Matt LaFleur must be privately thanking his lucky stars for that decision. For while neither Rodgers nor LaFleur was about to speak at length about the uncertainty at receiver (and tight end) behind Adams — “I think there’s a lot to be figured out,” Rodgers said Monday — the group is light on proven commodities after losing offseason addition Devin Funchess, who opted out because of family concerns amid COVID-19.
“Davante is a legitimate, premier, No. 1 receiver in this league. He’s a guy that no matter the situation, no matter who he’s playing against, we feel really, really confident that he can go win his one-on-one,” LaFleur said during his own Zoom call later Tuesday. “He’s a big leader for this team. A lot of guys, they feed off his energy, and everybody is looking at him as a veteran player how he goes about his business,
“To me, obviously he’s got great talent, but there’s a reason he’s elevated his game to the level at which it’s at right now — and that’s because of his work ethic. I know our guys, our young guys in that receiving corps and throughout our whole team are going to look at him for leadership and guidance and to try to become the best player that they can become.”
How good that is remains to be seen, especially with the team having traded up in the first round to pick its quarterback of the future, Jordan Love, instead of a wide receiver.
“It’s no secret, we were all expecting to have a receiver drafted, but that wasn’t the case,” Adams said in response to a question about how Rodgers will play in the wake of the Love pick. “Aaron’s going to come in balling and doing his thing. He’s got the right mindset.”
Without Funchess or a highly-touted rookie, the Packers’ depth chart behind Adams starts with Allen Lazard, who was a revelation last year after not initially making the team coming out of camp. After that, there’s uncertainty with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who went from being the No. 2 receiver to playing only one snap in the team’s season-ending loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game; Jake Kumerow, who had limited production with limited opportunities; Equanimeous St. Brown, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury and the virtual offseason didn’t exactly help his comeback; Darrius Shepherd, who was demoted to the practice squad after making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in camp; and ex-CFL receiver Reggie Begelton, who is an unknown at this point.
“It’s a much different room than previous years, where I don’t have to talk about Randall Cobb or talk about Jordy Nelson,” Adams acknowledged. “It’s a lot of young guys in that room now. … (But) all those guys are doing the right things right now. I think everybody has the right mindset. I’m excited to get on the field with them.”
Adams managed to catch 83 passes for 997 yards and five touchdowns despite missing four games with a painful toe injury. Although his numbers were well off his near-record season in 2018 (111 receptions, 1,386 yards, 13 TDs in 15 games), over the past four seasons, no receiver in the NFL has caught more touchdown passes (40) than him.
That underscores just how vital Adams will be to the Packers’ offensive success, so the team had to be thrilled to hear him say he’s going to live a cloistered existence to ensure he doesn’t contract COVID-19 when he’s away from the stadium.
While he praised the Packers’ setup at Lambeau Field —saying the team has given him “peace of mind” that “at least (I) know the club, if not the NFL, is doing everything that they can to make sure you stay safe and keep the other people around you safe” — Adams said he won’t take any chances with his or his family’s health when he’s not at the facility.
“To be real with you, I have no problem with being a hermit, man,” Adams said. “COVID and all that takes it to a new level, obviously, but at the end of the day, I don’t do much. I’m a simple man. I work out. I live and breathe wideout play and I love my family.
“I left my house maybe 10 times this offseason for something unrelated to getting food. I got a beautiful house in California, so I was able to get my chipping, my golfing in at home. I’ve got a basketball court, so there’s not much I needed to leave the house for. I got my Xbox there, so I can kind of just do me at my house. Work out, all that stuff. (And) being in Green Bay, it’s an absolutely beautiful city, but there’s not a whole lot out there that’s going to drive me outside to put my family at risk at this point.
“I’m a homebody, so at the end of the day, it means a lot more to me to keep my family, my coaches, my teammates and everybody else in this organization safe. I could obviously go hang out at all the Green Bay clubs, but I decided that I’m just not going to do that this year. I’m just going to stay at home and do what’s smartest for the team. And hopefully everybody else has that same mindset.“