GREEN BAY – It lasted just a few short moments, but it told a much longer story.
After one play during the Packers’ OTA workout Wednesday at Clarke Hinkle Field, Davante Adams was headed back to the huddle with new Head Coach Matt LaFleur walking alongside.
The brief conversation with the star receiver in LaFleur’s offense ended with some quick eye contact and a nod from both parties. The exchange reflected two significant realities.
One is how much teaching and learning is going on this spring as LaFleur works to get through one full installation of his system before training camp. More important, the other is that the Pro Bowler Adams, despite a monster 2018 season and three straight double-digit TD campaigns to his credit, remains eager to soak up every bit of coaching he can get.
“That’s something we talk about,” Adams said after practice. “‘Hey, I’m the most coachable guy out here, so if it’s something, anything you see in a route that I run, whatever it is, I want to make sure you let me know, because I want to perfect it as much as possible.’”
Adams’ approach has multiple motivations behind it.
Obviously, he’s pushing to maintain if not exceed the success he had in what now stands as his career year. With 111 catches for 1,386 yards last season, Adams came one catch and 135 yards shy of Jordy Nelson’s single-season franchise records. His 13 touchdowns were also a professional best.
But Adams also takes his leadership role amongst a large group of young receivers very seriously. The overall success of the group in 2019 will be defined as much, if not more so, by how far developing players like Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, J’Mon Moore and others come along.
That’s why he’ll welcome anything LaFleur wants to communicate and immediately apply it. The younger receivers, a group that also includes Jake Kumerow, Allen Lazard and even the more experienced Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis, will then see it immediately and hear about the head coach’s instructions in more detail later on.
“Obviously the young guys watch the way I do things and they want to emulate that, so if I’m doing it wrong and they let it slide just because of who I am or my years or whatever you want to say, and they go out and do the same thing and it’s not right, I feel like that’s not right,” Adams said. “I do whatever I can to be open with him so he can be open with me and feel like he can coach me up at any point.”
It’s a role and perspective LaFleur greatly appreciates. Adams himself called the offense “complex,” but LaFleur is emphasizing this is the time of year to “dig into the details,” which is just another area where leaders need to lead.
The Packers were on the practice field Wednesday afternoon for Phase 3 of the offseason program.
“He sets the tone for the group, and his energy spills over to everybody on the offensive side of the ball,” LaFleur said. “He’s got a mentality to him and I love it. He’s a dog, he’s a fighter, and he elevates the play of everyone around him.”
Adams’ leadership progression has occurred smoothly and naturally. Last season was the first in a long while without Jordy Nelson around, so more responsibility fell to Adams on and off the field.
Now Randall Cobb also has departed, so Adams is the unquestioned leader in the receiver room, but he’s quick to point out he’s not trying to become anyone’s coach. Pro football players have to stay focused and motivated on their own, so Adams just wants to keep everyone “heading in the right direction” with learning the offense.
He’s excited about what LaFleur’s system might do for him. Over the past couple of years, Adams started to move around the formation, and he liked it. LaFleur is doing more of the same, but adding pre-snap motions that could force defenses to try to defend No. 17 in different ways.
Regarding his uniform number, Adams reflected on the passing of Packers legend Bart Starr by telling a draft-day story. He said when the Packers asked him about a uniform number, he mentioned that he wore No. 15 in college at Fresno State.
“They gave me a pretty crazy, awkward pause,” Adams said, chuckling at the memory. “I’m like, ’15,’ and they’re like, ‘Uh, there’s a guy by the name of Bart Starr who played here.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, no disrespect,’ I didn’t realize it. I ended up telling (Starr) about that later on, too.”
History lessons aside, the learning going on now is with the offense, and much like Aaron Rodgers discussed last week, Adams is taking it upon himself to set the pace for others.
If that means having the head coach in his ear, passing along specific tips and instructions from time to time, he welcomes it. The example he sets matters, as do all those details.
“That’s where the beauty lies,” LaFleur said. “I think you can take your game to another level if you understand exactly what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.”