WIDE RE­CEIVERS

Da­vante Adams ready for lead­er­ship role

Packer Plus - - News - Ryan Wood

Green Bay — When his long­time team­mate called that morn­ing in March, Da­vante Adams couldn’t be­lieve what he heard. “Shocked,” he said, was his re­ac­tion.

Nobody saw Jordy Nel­son’s re­lease com­ing this spring. Not Green Bay Pack­ers fans. Not their quar­ter­back. Not the re­ceiver who’d learned from him the past four sea­sons.

Nel­son, like he did with Aaron Rodgers, de­liv­ered the news to Adams di­rectly over the phone. They rem­i­nisced some, but their con­ver­sa­tion soon turned to busi­ness. If Adams was sur­prised to learn they would no longer share an of­fense, Nel­son’s next ques­tion was also un­ex­pected.

“So what’s up with Cali?” Nel­son asked.

Nel­son signed with the Oak­land Raiders two days af­ter the Pack­ers re­leased him. His first-ever free agency was ex­pe­dited with an as­sist from Adams. A Palo Alto, Calif., na­tive, Adams knows the area well. “He’s ac­tu­ally a pretty close neigh­bor to my house in Cal­i­for­nia now,” Adams said.

In Raiders quar­ter­back Derek Carr, Adams knew his for­mer team­mate would be in good hands.

Adams caught passes from Carr for two sea­sons at Fresno State. To­gether, they formed one of col­lege foot­ball’s best quar­ter­back-re­ceiver tandems. So Adams told Nel­son north­ern Cal­i­for­nia was just fine, and oh by the way, there’s a pretty good quar­ter­back out there, too.

Then, Adams said, he fol­lowed up when Nel­son took his visit to Oak­land, fa­cil­i­tat­ing a 51⁄ hour steak­house din­ner with Nel­son and Carr.

“I was try­ing to get them ac­quainted,” Adams said, “be­cause I was push­ing for it. Be­cause if you are go­ing to be any­where, I want you to be with my old quar­ter­back be­cause I trust him, I know how he is. Great match for him. He was real ex­cited about it.

“From what I heard from the waiter, be­fore I got there, things were a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. It was a lit­tle, just be­cause they didn’t re­ally know each other yet. Then I came in, worked my magic, and now he signed. It was good.”

To Adams, help­ing Nel­son tran­si­tion to his next team was the least he could do. Adams cred­its Nel­son for help­ing him be­come a pro, both on and off the field. With Nel­son gone, he has found him­self re­peat­ing much of the wis­dom he heard in his first cou­ple years.

On the field, Adams’ role won’t change much. He al­ready started his tran­si­tion to be­ing the Pack­ers’ No. 1 re­ceiver in 2017. As the sea­son pro­gressed, op­po­nents be­gan turn­ing their cov­er­age fo­cus away from Nel­son, de­sign­ing their de­fenses to stop Adams.

Rodgers sug­gested Adams might get more snaps in­side this fall, al­ter­nat­ing be­tween the perime­ter and slot much like Nel­son did the past cou­ple years. Re­gard­less of where he runs routes, the Pack­ers are con­fi­dent Adams will pro­vide toplevel pro­duc­tion. Af­ter com­pil­ing 997 yards in 2016, Adams’ sea­son could’ve de­railed in the wake of Rodgers’ bro­ken col­lar­bone last fall. In­stead, Adams be­came backup Brett Hund­ley’s pri­mary re­ceiver.

Adams fin­ished 2017 with 74 catches for 885 yards and 10 touch­downs, earn­ing a spot in the Pro Bowl as an al­ter­nate re­plac­ing in­jured Julio Jones.

Now, Adams fig­ures to es­tab­lish him­self as Rodgers’ clear, top tar­get, a des­ig­na­tion that might have re­mained murky had Nel­son stayed. Af­ter sign­ing a fouryear, $58 mil­lion ex­ten­sion in De­cem­ber, the 25-year-old Adams has a con­sid­er­ably high ceil­ing. Rodgers knows Adams also will face high ex­ter­nal ex­pec­ta­tions.

“He’s go­ing to be looked at as more of the go-to guy out­side the build­ing,” Rodgers said. “Nat­u­rally, that would prob­a­bly be the pro­gres­sion for fans to think that way, but I throw it to the open guy. He hap­pens to be open a lot. So I’m sure he’s go­ing to get a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­tinue to be that guy.

“He’s just got to con­tinue to im­prove on what he’s done every year. He’s got­ten bet­ter every year. If he can play 16 games, he’s a Pro Bowl-cal­iber re­ceiver.”

Adams might have as big of a con­tri­bu­tion off the field. The Pack­ers need Adams to lead their re­ceiv­ing group, a role he only started dab­bling in last sea­son.

The Pack­ers’ long-held, draft-and-de­velop ap­proach cul­ti­vated a locker room where wis­dom was passed down by gen­er­a­tions. Re­ceiver isn’t the only seg­ment of the ros­ter where di­rect lin­eages can be traced. When cor­ner­back Tra­mon Wil­liams had his first sea­son with the Pack­ers in 2006, Charles Wood­son led the po­si­tion. Now Wil­liams is back at age 35, and it’s his time to shep­herd a trio of fir­stand sec­ond-year cor­ners in Jaire Alexan­der, Josh Jack­son and Kevin King.

Sim­i­larly, Nel­son shared an of­fense with Don­ald Driver for his first five sea­sons. Af­ter Driver re­tired in 2012, Nel­son was left to lead the re­ceiv­ing group. It’s a role Adams now as­sumes in his fifth sea­son (along with eighth-year vet­eran Ran­dall Cobb), tasked with men­tor­ing rook­ies J’Mon Moore, Marquez ValdesS­cantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.

“I feel like I’m an old man some­times, ‘Ah, I need to stop. I’m not a Year 12 vet,’ ” Adams said. “But at the same time, when you’re the sec­ond-old­est guy in the room, they look to you for that type of stuff. So it’s not a prob­lem for me at all to step up.”

Adams said he wants to pick up where Nel­son left off. He’s al­ready started with his younger team­mates in the or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties, giv­ing them as much in­for­ma­tion as he can. Adams thinks he has “a lot to of­fer” young re­ceivers, specif­i­cally with how he over­came on-field strug­gles early in his ca­reer to even­tu­ally be­come a true No. 1.

Adams said he’s quick to use his per­sonal jour­ney as an ex­am­ple. He also has a reser­voir of wis­dom he once learned from Nel­son, things he can now pass down the line.

“Jordy’s the big­gest epit­ome of a pro that you can think of,” Adams said. “You see what he’s done in the Green Bay com­mu­nity, let alone for the foot­ball team. I feel like (foot­ball is) sec­ondary. He showed you how to do it. He showed you how to work, he showed you how to watch film, and just all the small things that el­e­vate you from be­ing a good player to a great player.”

MARK HOFFMAN / MILWAUKEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Wide re­ceiver Da­vante Adams said he was shocked when he learned the Pack­ers re­leased vet­eran Jordy Nel­son.

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