Tagged in: green bay

Green Bay Packers sign veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins

The Green Bay Packers are finally adding to their receiver room by signing veteran Sammy Watkins.

The team revealed the deal on Thursday but didn’t reveal terms. A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Watkins’ contract is for one year and worth up to $4 million.

The Packers have lost three of their top receivers this offseason, headed by All-Pro Davante Adams in a trade to the Las Vegas Raiders. They also lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Chiefs) and Equanimeous St. Brown (Bears) in free agency.

The Packers’ top remaining receivers are Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers.

They haven’t used a first-round pick on a receiver since 2002 (Javon Walker) but have two picks in each of the first two rounds after the Adams trade, putting them in position to address that spot high in the draft.

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Packers head coach Matt LaFleur coached Watkins with the Rams in 2017, and Packers receivers coach Jason Vrable was in Buffalo when the Bills drafted him fourth overall in 2014.

Watkins, 28, has had difficulty staying healthy throughout his career.

He continued to struggle with injuries in his only season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021, ending with career lows in receptions (27) and receiving yards (394).

He has missed 30 matches over the past seven seasons, and he hasn’t played a full season since his 2014 rookie season.

He made two of the biggest catches of the season for Baltimore, setting up winning scores versus the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, but Watkins had no catches — and just three targets — in his final four games as he fell behind Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay on the depth chart.

In his eight-year career, Watkins has totaled 348 receptions for 5,059 yards receiving and 34 touchdown catches for the Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and Ravens.

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Green Bay Packers to hire Rich Bisaccia to fix special teams

The Packers will ultimately have an experienced coach running their special teams. They are expected to hire veteran special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, who most recently served as the Raiders’ interim head coach.

A source stated Monday that an announcement is coming soon after some final details are worked out. NFL Network was first to report that the Packers were expected to hire Bisaccia.

He will be the third person to coordinate the Packers special teams in as many seasons, but he’s the first one with NFL experience doing so. Bisaccia was in his 20th season as an NFL special teams coordinator when the Raiders made him their interim coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation during 2021.

He joined the Raiders in 2018 after previously coaching special teams for the Cowboys (2013-17), Chargers (2011-12) and Buccaneers (2002-10). The 61-year-old also had 19 years of college coaching experience before entering the NFL.

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Bisaccia will replace Maurice Drayton, who was fired last week following the Packers’ disastrous special teams performance in the NFL divisional playoff loss to the 49ers.

Drayton’s units had a field goal and a punt blocked, the latter of which was returned for a touchdown. The Packers became the first team in 33 years to have both a punt and a field goal blocked during the same playoff game.

The playoff game was not an anomaly. The Packers special teams ranked 31st in ESPN’s FPI and dead last in Rick Gosselin’s widely respected special teams rankings. Drayton was promoted to special teams coordinator in 2021 after serving for two years as an assistant to Shawn Mennenga, whose units ranked 26th and 29th. Neither had been a special teams coordinator in the NFL before coming to Green Bay.

The Packers special teams problem isn’t unique to Matt LaFleur’s tenure.

Dating to the start of Mike McCarthy’s run as head coach in 2006, the Packers have ranked in the top 10 in special teams only once (2007). In that span, they have finished in the top half of the special teams rankings only four times — most recently 16th in 2017. In that same span, Bisaccia’s special teams have six top-10 finishes plus a No. 11 ranking this past season.

LaFleur acknowledged after the season that a coaching modification might not be the only necessary fix for the Packers’ special teams.

“Just one takeaway, just watching that game back, San Francisco had a lot of their starters on special teams,” LaFleur said. “That’s going to be something that I want to do some studies around the league and see how many teams operate that way. Again, does it have some inherent risk? Absolutely.”

Bisaccia interviewed for the Raiders’ permanent head-coaching job, which ultimately went to Josh McDaniels even after quarterback Derek Carr was among the players who threw their public support behind the interim coach.

Bisaccia went 7-5 after Gruden resigned, and the Raiders (10-7 overall) made the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

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Strong fourth quarter carries San Francisco 49ers past Green Bay Packers, into NFC Championship Game

The San Francisco 49ers simply will not go away.

The same Niners that were once 3-5 and headed for a long offseason full of questions are now headed to the NFC Championship match for the second time in three seasons.

To get there, San Francisco had to pull out the type of late-game magic that has been a hallmark of its late-season surge to the playoffs. The result was a wild 13-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night at Lambeau Field.

The 49ers await the winner of Sunday’s NFC divisional game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams.

After a disappointing offensive performance, the Niners pieced together the drive they needed at the biggest moment, with wide receiver Deebo Samuel taking a handoff nine yards for a first down on third-and-7 at Green Bay’s 38.

Samuel’s run set up place-kicker Robbie Gould’s winning 45-yard field goal as time expired.

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“This team has been through a lot,” San Francisco tight end George Kittle said. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity. We’ve dealt with a lot. We’ve lost games by making mistakes. We’ve won games dirty. This is a gritty team. It’s a salty team, and we just keep bouncing back.”

That toughness has been on display a lot over the past couple of months.

The Niners went 7-2 over their final nine games to get into the postseason.

That run culminated in a 17-point comeback triumph over the Rams in the final week that clinched a playoff spot.

The Niners went 7-2 over their final nine games to get into the postseason. That run culminated in a 17-point comeback triumph over the Rams in the final week that clinched a playoff spot.

It continued versus the Dallas Cowboys last weekend, when the Niners nearly coughed up a 16-point advantage but managed to squeeze by to advance to the divisional round against the Packers.

But Green Bay presented a unique challenge, one that for most of Saturday looked like it would be too much for the 49ers to overcome. As they’ve done for most of the past 2½ months, the Niners didn’t flinch.

It has become the signature trait of a team that is not as dominant as the 2019 juggernaut but that makes up for its shortcomings with an unrelenting will to win.

The Niners became the first team since the 1988 Buffalo Bills to block a punt and a field goal in the same playoff game. San Francisco also became just the fourth team to win a postseason contest without an offensive touchdown since 2000.

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QB Jimmy Garoppolo has ‘slightly’ sprained throwing shoulder, should be OK for Saturday vs. Green Bay Packers

Already playing through a torn ligament in his right thumb, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered another injury in Sunday’s triumph over the Dallas Cowboys.

This time, Garoppolo is dealing with what coach Kyle Shanahan called Monday a “slightly” sprained right (throwing) shoulder. According to Shanahan, the injury occurred in the second quarter.

Garoppolo joins linebacker Fred Warner (sprained right ankle) and defensive end Nick Bosa (concussion) on the list of key Niners nursing injuries to watch this week as the team prepares for Saturday night’s NFC divisional-round game versus the Green Bay Packers.

The good news, according to Shanahan, is that Warner and Garoppolo should be ready to go versus Green Bay. In fact, Shanahan believes Garoppolo will be able to practice when the team resumes those sessions on Tuesday.

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“He should be fine for practice,” Shanahan said. “He had to play through some pain and stuff, but he ended up checking out all right. Just a slight shoulder sprain and he should be good for [Tuesday’s] practice.”

Warner sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter and was writhing in pain and grabbing at it, which put a scare into the Niners and their fans. Further testing on Monday, however, revealed it was a low ankle sprain, which means he should also be OK this week, though it’s unclear if he will resume practice right away.

“We’ll evaluate and see as the week goes,” Shanahan stated. “The initial scare was that it could have been high, so we got good news on that. He had something similar to this earlier in the year, but we’ll evaluate him on Wednesday, which I think is Tuesday this week.”

Earlier Monday, Warner had indicated that his injury wasn’t as serious as first feared, tweeting: “Sorry for the scare yesterday everyone, I appreciate everyone showing love and support for me and the fellas. We’ll be good to go. Huge win, onto the next.”

Bosa’s status is more unclear because he must clear the necessary steps of the concussion protocol in order to play.

Bosa suffered his concussion just before halftime of San Francisco’s 23-17 win against Dallas.

Shanahan said he did not get a chance to speak to Bosa on Sunday night or Monday morning but got positive reports from those who did.

“We’re being pretty optimistic with it,” Shanahan said. “I’ve seen that a few times and he seems like he’s in a pretty good spot right now, but I’m not going to be the one who judges that.”

In addition to Garoppolo, Bosa and Warner, Niners defensive end Jordan Willis suffered a high ankle sprain against the Cowboys, which puts his status in doubt against the Packers.

With a short week and less time for their injured players to heal, Shanahan said the Niners will have a lighter schedule this week. They will have a late start time on Tuesday, followed by less strenuous practices on Wednesday and Thursday before traveling to Green Bay.

“I think the biggest thing about this week is going to be about recovery,” Shanahan said. “So, the more sleep we can do, we’ll slow most of the stuff down. I doubt we get many full-speed reps in this week. … [We’ll] make it pretty easy on the guys this week.”

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Green Bay Packers clinch third straight division title as Aaron Rodgers ties Brett Favre’s TD record

All Matt LaFleur does is win division titles. In his three years as the Green Bay Packers coach, they’ve won the NFC North three times.

All Aaron Rodgers does is throw touchdown passes. In his 14th season as the Packers’ starter, he tied Brett Favre’s franchise record of 442 touchdown passes.

And just about everybody in green and gold left M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday with what they wanted — a 31-30 triumph over the Lamar Jackson-less Baltimore Ravens.

The victory was secured after the Ravens failed to convert on a 2-point conversion that would have given them a 1-point lead with 45 seconds left.

The Packers (11-3) clinched the division title, giving them an automatic playoff berth, and stayed on track for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs with three games to go.

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“You have to savor these a little bit,” Rodgers said. “These are special. It’s just the first step in our goals, but a lot of times the coach speak — I’m not saying that Matt did this — but a lot of times there might be coach speak that takes over and says, ‘Hey, you know this is just one goal and we have bigger goals and stuff,’ but I think it’s important to keep that perspective on how special accomplishing this is three years in a row and so just to enjoy it, to savor it, savor these moments. These are special moments.”

Rodgers also matched the man he replaced as Packers quarterback in 2008 on Sunday.

Greg Jennings caught Rodgers’ first touchdown 14 years ago in Dallas, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught No. 442 as Rodgers tied Favre.

Rodgers did it in 45 fewer games as he set the mark in his 210th game (203rd as a starter), while Favre needed 255 games (and 253 starts) over 16 seasons. Rodgers is in his 17th season but did not become a starter until his fourth year.

Rodgers has also thrown 193 less interceptions in his career than Favre threw as a member of the Packers.

Rodgers entered the match needing three touchdown passes to tie the record and four to break it. He threw his first of the game, No. 440 of his career, on a 3-yard out to Davante Adams to tie the game at 14-14 in the second quarter. It was also his 65th career touchdown to Adams, which tied Rodgers and Adams with Rodgers and Jordy Nelson for the most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver duo in Packers history.

The second one, No. 441, came on the opening drive of the second quarter when he bought time and looped a 9-yarder to Aaron Jones for a 21-14 lead.

The third one, the record-tying No. 442, was an 11-yarder to Valdes-Scantling with 12:54 left in the fourth quarter for a 28-17 lead.

Rodgers nearly had a fourth touchdown pass for the outright record, but he and Allen Lazard just missed on what would have been an 11-yarder midway through the fourth quarter.

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers says fractured toe ‘feels worse’ after record-setting win vs. Bears

It seems that Aaron Rodgers still owns the Chicago Bears but unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback, he also still has a problem with his fractured pinky toe.

Rodgers and the Packers beat the Bears for the sixth consecutive time and Rodgers ran his record as a starter against them to 23-5 — settling milestones and records in the series along the way. But he indicated that whatever healing took place with his toe during the Packers’ bye was wiped out, and then some.

“It feels worse,” Rodgers said after Sunday’s 45-30 victory at Lambeau Field. “I don’t know what kind of setback that I had tonight but we’ll look at it tomorrow. Definitely took a step back tonight.”

Rodgers’ suffered the injury last month during his COVID-19 quarantine and has barely practiced despite not missing any significant game action since he hurt it. It had improved enough last week to the point where he actually practiced for the first time in three weeks.

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During the bye, Rodgers stated surgery was an option and even though he was told it could be done without him missing a game, he elected not to have it. He said Sunday that he was still hoping to avoid the procedure, which would immobilize his toe, but that a decision would be made after he undergoes tests on Monday.

“That would be last resort, for sure,” Rodgers said. “But I’ve got to see what kind of setback it was tonight.”

There was no setback when it came to the Packers’ dominance over the Bears with Rodgers at quarterback.

Two months after Rodgers celebrated a touchdown at Soldier Field by screaming “I still own you” to fans in the stands, Rodgers threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.

This was Rodgers’ seventh four-touchdown, no interception game versus the Bears, the most in NFL history against a single opponent. Rodgers is the only quarterback who also has six — against the Vikings. Next closest is Tom Brady with five such games against the Bills.

Rodgers’ final touchdown of the game — his second of the night to Davante Adams (10 catches for 131 yards) — gave him 61 career touchdowns against the Bears, passing Brett Favre’s 60 for the most all time against Chicago. All of that prompted Packers receiver Allen Lazard to wear a shirt that read “I still own you” — Rodgers’ exact words on Oct. 17 — to his postgame news conference.

At first, only the words, “I still” were visible on Lazard’s shirt but when asked if it said what everyone thought it said, Lazard stood up to reveal the “own you,” portion and said: “It most definitely does.”

Running back AJ Dillon had them made shortly after the first game this season versus the Bears and while Rodgers said he has one, he did not feel compelled to wear his on Sunday.

“I’ve already said what I’ve said,” Rodgers said. “I don’t need to double and triple down. I’ll let those words stand for themselves.”

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Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones out 1-2 weeks with ‘mild’ MCL sprain

An MRI revealed that Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones has “a mild” MCL sprain and is expected to be out one to two weeks, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday.

Jones left Sunday’s 17-0 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the third quarter with a knee injury, reaching for his right knee at the end of a 6-yard gain. On the CBS TV broadcast, Tracy Wolfson reported that Jones left the medical tent in tears and went to talk to his family.

Jones has suffered MCL sprains before, including one to his right knee during the 2018 season. He missed the final two games of that season. As a rookie in 2017, he missed two games in the middle of the season because of an MCL sprain and then also sat out the season finale because of a similar injury.

The Packers missed the playoffs in both of those seasons, so it’s unknown when Jones could have returned. Packers coach Matt LaFleur sounded relieved on Monday that it wasn’t a worst-case, season-ending injury for Jones.

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“I don’t think it’s going to be long term, but we’ll just monitor it on a daily basis and see how fast he can heal up, because he’s certainly a guy you want out on the field,” LaFleur said. “He does so much for our team, just not only from a production standpoint, but also just the energy he brings to our team is pretty contagious.”

The Packers signed Jones to a four-year, $48 million deal in March.

He had four catches for 61 yards and seven carries for 25 yards when he left the game.

Second-year running back AJ Dillon totaled 128 yards of offense (66 yards on 21 carries and 62 yards on two catches) and two touchdowns versus the Seahawks.

In other injury news, Packers OLB Rashan Gary plans to brace his hyperextended elbow to see if he can try to play Sunday against the Vikings, a source told Schefter. Gary has an MRI on his elbow scheduled for Tuesday to see if anything gets in the way of his plans.

A source also told Schefter that fellow outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus has a torn biceps and will miss the rest of the season. The Packers signed the veteran pass-rusher last month, and he had first sack with the Packers on Sunday against the Seahawks.

“Yeah, that’s a tough one,” LaFleur said. “Man, I feel bad for him. Shoot, he would’ve had potentially a second sack right there. Just the stability he brings to that room and this guy’s a pro’s pro. He’s been doing this at a very high level for a long time. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that happen.”

Even if Gary doesn’t miss a match, the Packers are thin at outside linebacker. There’s no timetable for Za’Darius Smith to return from his back surgery; he has not played since the season opener.

The Packers on Saturday released outside linebacker LaDarius Hamilton, but perhaps general manager Brian Gutekunst will re-sign him.

“I think that’s something that Gutey and our entire scouting department is looking at every potential option,” LaFleur said. “We have some guys on our practice squad and we’ll just kind of see where we have to go.”

Quarterback Blake Bortles’ two-week stint with the Packers, meanwhile, is over. With Aaron Rodgers back and now Kurt Benkert off the reserve/COVID-19 list and back on the practice squad, Bortles was released Monday.

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Green Bay Packers sign former Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

The Green Bay Packers didn’t land former All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore but may have found help for their defense after all in former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Smith signed with the Packers on Thursday, with his agent, Doug Hendrickson of Wasserman, telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter it is a one-year deal.

The move came a day after news broke that the Packers were a potential suitor for Gilmore shortly before he was traded from the New England Patriots to the Carolina Panthers for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick. But the Packers did not have enough salary-cap space to get Gilmore in a trade because they would have to inherit the remaining $5.8 million of his base salary on this year’s salary cap.

The Packers started Thursday with about $6.5 million in cap space and still need room for the in-season moves that injuries might necessitate. Smith, however, fits under the cap because the Cowboys are on the hook for the entirety of his $7.2 million base salary this campaign as a result of veteran termination pay rules.

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He filled the roster spot of outside linebacker Chauncey Rivers, who was placed on injured reserve.

Rivers tore an ACL on the second-to-last play of practice Wednesday, a source told ESPN.

“Nothing’s official yet, but I go back a long time with Jaylon,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who coached Smith at Notre Dame, said before the signing was announced.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for him, not only as a football player but as a man. He was one of my favorites when I was at Notre Dame. I just think a veteran guy who’s played at a really high level and just can bring kind of a mentality and leadership to our defense.

“Certainly, he’s going to be behind quite a bit, being the fact we’re heading to Week 5 and it’s a totally different system, so there’s going to be a lot of work that needs to be put in, not only from him but from our coaching staff to get him up to speed. But we’ll let him kind of come in here and compete to play.”

With the Packers, Smith could work his way into the starting lineup alongside De’Vondre Campbell, who has been one of their biggest playmakers this season, or simply offer backup depth.

Second-year pro Krys Barnes opened the season as the other starting inside linebacker; he missed last week’s match versus the Pittsburgh Steelers because of a concussion he suffered the previous week against the San Francisco 49ers.

Without Barnes, the Packers used a combination of Ty Summers and Oren Burks next to Campbell.

LaFleur said it was unlikely Smith would play Sunday at the Cincinnati Bengals.

Smith, 26, saw his role with the Cowboys diminish with the addition of first-round pick Micah Parsons, the production from Leighton Vander Esch and the return of Keanu Neal from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Smith was a second-round pick by the Cowboys in 2016 even though they considered it unlikely for him to play for a year given the knee injury he suffered in his final college game.

He made his debut in 2017 and has played in every game since.

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Green Bay Packers bringing back Jake Dolegala for QB depth

With Jordan Love’s shoulder still an issue and Aaron Rodgers not expected to play in the preseason, the Green Bay Packers are bringing back quarterback Jake Dolegala.

The signing was not revealed by the team but was made public by his agency, Generation Sports Group.

The team will have to make room on the roster before it can make it official. They were at the NFL-mandated limit of 85 players as of Tuesday.

Dolegala spent nearly two months with the Packers this offseason. He was signed in June after participating in the team’s mandatory minicamp but was released on July 27 shortly before training camp, when Rodgers ended his holdout and returned to the team. The Packers also released veteran Blake Bortles on the same day.

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Love injured his right (throwing) shoulder in the Packers’ preseason opener on Saturday. Coach Matt LaFleur implied that there’s no long-term concern but that Love might miss some time. He was held out of practice on Monday, and the team did not practice on Tuesday. They Packers start two days of joint practices with the New York Jets on Wednesday leading into their preseason game on Saturday.

LaFleur said Love could “potentially” play versus the Jets.

Love was expected to play into the third quarter last week against the Houston Texans but instead was pulled at halftime. Kurt Benkert, the third quarterback on the roster, played the second half.

Dolegala was originally signed by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He was the Bengals’ No. 3 QB that season but was released following the 2020 training camp. He spent parts of last season on the Patriots’ practice squad and briefly returned to them early in training camp this year.

Before Tuesday’s cut to 85, the Packers also swapped cornerbacks with the New York Giants. They traded 2018 second-round pick Josh Jackson for 2018 third-round pick Isaac Yiadom.

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Jordan Love prepared to be Green Bay’s starting quarterback but says it’s ‘great’ Aaron Rodgers returned

He’s not to the point where he’s giving long and revealing answers like Aaron Rodgers, and he’s not one to crack up the room like third-stringer Kurt Benkert, so what is Jordan Love as he settles into the No. 2 quarterback job with the Green Bay Packers now that the reigning NFL MVP has returned?

No one’s immediate future was more up in the air during Rodgers’ standoff with the team than Love’s. Yet to hear his teammates tell it and to listen to him answer questions, Love was — and still is — nothing if not calm and even-keeled.

“Obviously there’s going to be either two options: Either he was going to be back or he wasn’t,” Love stated of Rodgers on Thursday in his first public comments since training camp opened on July 28.

“So yeah, I mean, it’s obviously very great to have Aaron back just on this team. Obviously he’s a huge presence at the quarterback position and in the locker room as well and then as a leader on the team, so it’s great to have him back.”

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A day after Rodgers said he tried to keep Love abreast of any developments during the offseason — because as Rodgers said, “I just felt that’s what I would want in that situation, just to hear from the guy” — Love called their relationship like a Master and Padawan, referring to one of Rodgers’ favorite movies, “Star Wars.”

Love said he found out about Rodgers’ return just before he boarded a plane to Green Bay for training camp.

“Actually, the whole time I had to convince myself that I was going to be the starter,” Love said. “That’s the only way you can look at that situation. I feel like if you don’t, you won’t be ready. That’s how I looked at it the whole way — is in my head he wasn’t coming back, I’ve got to get myself ready to be the starter.”

It was an invaluable offseason of work for Love, the 26th overall pick of the 2020 draft, given that he served as the No. 3 quarterback last season and did not even suit up for a single match as a rookie.

Much like in offseason practices, Love has experienced good and bad days so far in camp. Take Thursday, for example. He completed a tight-window crosser to Reggie Begelton and had perfect placement on a deep sideline out to Devin Funchess. But then during the two-minute drill, he went 0-for-3 with a pair of turnovers on downs and an interception by undrafted rookie Christian Uphoff on a wobbly deep ball.

“It was funny, I was talking to him in pre-practice today just about how things are going, and he seems so calm this year,” Packers guard Lucas Patrick said Thursday. “You can tell that he’s picking up on everything, and I think those OTAs reps were crucial for him. Just a ton of reps to say the cadence, say the playcall, go through things, hit strikes on quick stuff. Yeah, so I think he’s handling it well.”

Love said it helps that he can work in what he called “a great quarterback room” where he’s surrounded by the thoughtful Rodgers and the outgoing Benkert. While Rodgers was revealing again in his comments on Wednesday and Benkert cracked up the room by telling reporters the story of how he got cut by the Falcons earlier this year and that he basically invited himself to a July 4 cookout with some Packers fans, Love was his composed and buttoned-up self as he waits his turn.

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