After missing a portion of the first week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) due to his attendance at the league-mandated NFLPA Rookie Premiere out in Los Angeles, Davante Adams was back in Green Bay this week, getting back to work and playing catch-up in Packers offense.
Missing a few days of the offseason program in early June will hardly be a death knell to Adams' chances of being a contributing member to the Packers in 2014, but the first-year wide receiver acknowledges the uphill battle he faces in continually having to prove himself in a practice environment.
"You got to keep showing the coaches things and keep showing the quarterback, and you have to make sure you instill faith in all your teammates that you're going to go out there and keep making plays for them," said Adams earlier this week, "otherwise you're not going to get the ball and they're going to forget about you. So (I'm) making sure I build off what I did yesterday and just continue to climb throughout the rest of these OTAs and minicamp."
After seeing long-time contributors such as Greg Jennings and James Jones depart via free agency over the past two seasons and Donald Driver retire from the game, the Packers looked to reinvigorate the position this offseason, heavily investing into wide receivers during the NFL Draft.
Coming out of Fresno State, Adams was just one of three wide receivers the Packers selected during the draft in addition to Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin in the fifth round and Jeff Janis of Saginaw Valley State in the seventh round.
As a second round pick, however, Adams comes with higher expectations than the others, especially considering the recent success the Packers have had in developing second-round wide receivers: Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, all of whom have become big-time contributors at the NFL level.
Cobb can attest that the pressure is on Adams to perform.
"I think the biggest thing is just to come in and prove yourself," said Cobb. "As a second-round draft pick, everybody's looking at you, how you can contribute to the team. So just coming in and doing the things that got you to this point and continuing to work hard and being the best player you can be for us."
There's definitley no shortage of things that got Adams to this point in his football development. As a sophomore in 2013, all he did was lead the nation with 131 catches, the only player in the country to average more than 10 receptions per game.
Adams also had an FBS-leading 24 touchdown receptions, and that's building off a freshman season in which he also had more than 100 receptions, 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. As the favorite target of quarterback Derek Carr, it goes without saying Adams was a productive college receiver.
But there's a difference between the NFL and college football: a canyon of divide.
NCAA rules allow only 20 hours of contact per week between coaches and players, and that's not just limited to practice. It includes meetings, film sessions, conditioning and individual workouts.
In the NFL, football becomes a full-time job. Long hours are spent at the team facility, and devotion to the game doesn't end when players are away from 1265 Lombardi Ave. Adams will have his nose in the playbook and watching film during his evenings and weekends at home.
Becoming versed in the Packers offense doesn't happen overnight. Veterans on the team can attest to that.
"Probably to become extremely, fully comfortable, it would be two, maybe my third training camp is where when we went out to practice, they called the play and I knew it right away," said Nelson. "I didn't have to think about anything.
"You get to the point where you have to focus on the defense, focus on the guy across from you instead of thinking every little thing about the route, the play, the adjustment. It just comes natural to you."
Obviously Adams has his work cut out for him, particularly if he hopes to climb as high as third on the team's depth chart at wide receiver.
In no particular order, Nelson and Cobb will be options A and B among Aaron Rodgers' top targets.
After that, Jarrett Boykin has the inside track on the third receiver gig after a breakout 2013 season that saw him haul in 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns.
But Boykin also didn't have the raw talent of Adams coming out of college.
"He's not slow," said coach Mike McCarthy of Adams. "He's fully capable of playing in the NFL. He's very strong. He's an excellent route runner, particularly at the top of his routes. The ability to separate from the defender is the key, and I think that's one of his strongest traits."
It's not going to be easy for Adams to meet or exceed expectations. Nothing comes easy in the NFL.
Playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Adams knows the burden is on him to not make mistakes because as he's already found out, Rodgers is not prone to making them.
"I didn't know how it was going to be, but he gets that thing out of there," said Adams. "It's great catching balls from him. Pretty much, if you don't catch the ball, it's your fault because the ball's going to be there."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
Photo: Packers wide receiver Davante Adams by Brian Carriveau.
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