GREEN BAY – In what became a recurring gag with the Green Bay media corps last season, Davante Adams would stand at his locker every Wednesday and put a percentage on how his foot was feeling.
From the time Adams suffered his turf toe injury against Philadelphia in Week 4 to the time he returned following a four-game absence, his replies grew exponentially from 100 percent to 1,000 percent to 1 million percent.
In November, following a seven-catch, 118-yard showing in a 24-16 win over Carolina, the Packers' veteran receiver jokingly told reporters it felt "3 million percent" in his postgame scrum.
The truth is Adams played the rest of the season in a great deal of discomfort. He was cleared to play, to be sure, but it wasn't until after he fashioned his third consecutive Pro Bowl campaign that Adams finally had the opportunity to let his foot properly heal.
"After the Pro Bowl, I just rested up," Adams said. "I know you guys loved percentages. Now that we're in a different spot ... I would still put it at a 70% toe at the end of that year. There was a lot of healing that needed to still take place … to make sure I got right all the way so I could come into camp, or even OTAs had we been out here then, ready to go."
Adams took what he called "a decent break" after the season, avoiding putting on his cleats "for a really long time." He traded in his "normal operation" of footwork and change-of-direction drills for strength and conditioning at the start of the offseason.
The scary part is Adams was still remarkably productive despite the setback. When factoring in Green Bay's two postseason games, the seventh-year receiver caught 75 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games following his return.
His shining hour came in the Packers' 28-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional playoffs, catching eight passes for a postseason franchise record 160 yards and two touchdowns.
Adams kept a low profile during the COVID-19 offseason. A new father and self-professed "hermit," Adams told reporters last month he left his house no more than 10 times for something other than food.
Back in Green Bay, Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers fell back into their usual routine this summer. In the team's second practice inside Lambeau Field on Aug. 25, Adams made perhaps the finest catch of camp when he caught a leaping touchdown from Rodgers and hurled the ball high into the empty south end-zone bleachers in celebration.
That enthusiasm has been palpable all summer, especially after everything he played through in 2019.
"Davante is extremely competitive and it really ate at his core not being out there with his teammates," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur of Adams' four-game absence last October. "He didn't look like he was 70% but i know he was gutting through it and we're really thankful to have a guy of his caliber on our football team. And not only that, but he's been an exceptional leader for that wide receiver room. Being the vet in that room, he's really taken on a mentor role."
Still only 27 years old, Adams has been the bona fide leader in the receiver room for the past two seasons, with no other receiver on the active roster older than 25 or possessing more than two accrued NFL seasons.
But Adams' growing expertise extends well past his position room. He's actively worked to offer a helping hand to the team's other offensive skill positions. For example, when running back Jamaal Williams was looking to add to his pass-catching repertoire this offseason, Adams was one of the people he called.
While there's been some consternation externally about the Packers' receiving weapons, Adams sees budding playmakers in Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who had one of the best training camps of anyone on the Packers' roster.
"He looks the best he's ever looked," Adams said. "I'm excited for what's going to come from him because I think just part of his maturation process was understanding some of the small things and how they matter, (like) finishing a healthy 10-yard sprint after you catch the ball or getting into the end zone, different things I kind of adopted when I first got here watching guys like Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb."
Going into Sunday's opener against Minnesota, Adams knows plenty will still fall on him. Like last year, he's preparing for plenty of double teams.
Receivers coach Jason Vrable said two weeks ago how he'd already spoken with new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, who was on Minnesota's coaching staff last year, about how much the Vikings' defensive game plan centered on Adams.
For Adams, he's excited for what lies ahead. He's confident, knowing he did everything in his power to put the toe injury behind him and put his best foot forward in 2020.
"Just kind of letting that thing rest and getting my mind right," Adams said. "Because like I said before, when I hurt my ankle back in '15, if you let an injury linger like that, other things start to factor in. You don't want to deal with that. I just wanted to make sure I came back 1,000% ready to go and here we are."