It's been a bit of a whirlwind for Jared Abbrederis ever since being selected by the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Draft.
Having played for the home state University of Wisconsin, his celebrity is bigger than most other rookies. But it goes beyond merely playing for the Badgers.
This is a player that won three Big Ten titles, was a three-time all-conference honoree and played in the Rose Bowl, "The Grandaddy of Them All," on three occasions. This is a player that was the Burlsworth Award winner, given to the nation's most outstanding player that began his career as a walk on. This is a player that was invited to the Senior Bowl, the country's premier college all-star game.
Jared Abbrederis was a household name on fall Satursdays. And now the Packers hope the success he's experienced in college translates to the pros.
Having been in Green Bay a little over a month, Abbrederis had an opportunity to go through both Organized Team Activities and minicamp, but as of this past Thursday, his crash course in the team's offense is complete.
The Packers offseason progam is over, and from all indications, everything went smoothly, but Abbrederis knows this is just the beginning.
"It's been a good offseason so far, about a month or whatever," said Abbrederis at last week's minicamp. "It's been good. It's been fun to be out here just competing, and I'm excited to get to training camp and actually put on the pads and really start competing."
Credit Abbrederis, his head hasn't gotten too big.
Even though he's been drafted by the Packers, he knows the difference between being on the 90-man offseason roster and the 53-man roster that populates the regular season.
As a fifth-round selection, Abbederis' spot on the team isn't guaranteed.
"For me, it really hasn't set in because once camp comes, that's when you got to make the team," said Abberderis. "Ask me that after this year and hopefully I accomplish the goals that I want and I set for myself and after that, I'll look back on it. Right now, I still have to achieve that, so I'm excited to go do that."
Even though, Abbrederis' bid to make the roster has begun in earnest, for all intents and purposes, it really starts when training camp begins. Players report Friday July 25 and the first practice is on Saturday July 26.
The importance, the levity of training camp, isn't lost on rookies like Abbrederis. Head coach Mike McCarthy shared that message with his team before they broke minicamp ahead of a five-week layoff.
"We realize when you get back at training camp, it's a whole different tempo," said McCarthy. "You're competing for jobs. I told the team over and over again, mentally, we do not wait for anybody, so the commitment and the focus these past nine weeks was to get mentally ready for what's in front of us. The indication of where we are looks good, but as we all know, training camp's always different.
"When you put the pads on, the environment changes. The competition's heightened. The environment's electric. Just the ability to practice in front of our fans, just the whole setup. It will be crystal clear who makes that step and who doesn't."
These next five weeks are about decompression. It's an opportunity for a player to rest his body before the grind of training camp and the regular season, but that's not to intimate Abbrederis is going to rest on his laurels. Strength and conditioning will take place. In his own words, he'll "fine tune some things."
Despite a résumé that boasts 202 career catches in college for 3,140 yards and 23 touchdowns, it all means very little in professional football.
The NFL Combine, back in February, highlighted what Abbrederis still needs to work on. Of the more than 350 players invited to the event, he had the fewest repetitions on the 225-pound bench press. The future Packers draft choice could only muster raising the bar four times.
Functional strength will be key for Abbrederis. Any player gets away with things in college they can't as pros.
If Abbrederis happens to be on the field for the season opener against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, there's a chance he'll get jammed at the line of scrimmage by a Richard Sherman or a Kam Chancellor. Even the strongest and savviest of veteran receivers have trouble getting a clean release against players of that caliber.
And if it's not a passing play being called, Abbrederis will be tasked with blocking for the NFL's defending Offensive Rookie of the Year in Eddie Lacy.
The NFL is a whole different animal. It's now a job, and training camp is designed to prepare Abbrederis for its rigors.
"Right now, obviously, you try to go as high-tempo as you can and for the most part you can, running routes, things like that, but it's going to be a little bit more physical once you put the pads on," said Abbrederis. "Running routes, they can put their hands on you a little bit more. Block, obviously. Right now you just try to get in front of your guy and do the best you can, but blocking obviously, that's something (different)."
All offseason, there was no threat of being tackled for Abbrederis. And that perhaps represents the biggest change.
Training camp will be more corporal, more laboring.
"Obviously you have pads on, so you can go a little harder," said Abbrederis. "It'll just be a lot more competitive."
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].
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