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'It's all about what's next' for Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Fourth-year speedster entering final year of rookie contract

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

GREEN BAY – Marquez Valdes-Scantling's last performance was a pretty darn good one, and in a big game to boot.

But you won't hear the Packers' speedy receiver talking about his four catches for 116 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown, in last January's NFC title game as he enters a fourth season that could prove pivotal in his career.

He's moved on to whatever lies ahead.

"Obviously it's good, but who cares about the past," Valdes-Scantling said after Saturday's fourth practice of training camp. "It's all about what's next.

"If I had 10 catches or one catch, we didn't win the game, and that's all I really cared about. So obviously it wasn't enough."

It he sounds a little curt, it's understandable. A native of Tampa who lives not far from last February's Super Bowl site, Raymond James Stadium, Valdes-Scantling began his offseason being reminded of the loss to the Buccaneers on a daily basis.

By now, he's put that behind him too, no different than all his big highlights from 2020 – career highs of 690 yards and six TDs, with six receptions of 40-plus yards that helped produce a league-best 20.9 per-catch average – or the low points that included some frustrating drops and a costly overtime fumble (the first and only fumble of his career, by the way).

Moving on is his mantra, whether from the ups or the downs, an approach that should serve him well as the 2018 fifth-round draft pick plays the final year of his rookie contract with his future undetermined.

"It'll take care of itself," he said regarding his next deal. "I know what I can do. I know my value and I know what I provide to this team. It's nothing past that.

"It's not like I'm going in there thinking, man, I've got to catch this many balls and have this many yards and get paid this amount of money."

To Head Coach Matt LaFleur, that value Valdes-Scantling provides goes beyond the "splash plays," which include 15 catches of 40-plus yards in his career to date, seven of them for touchdowns.

He's also a willing and effective blocker in the run game and on screen passes, something he's taken pride in since his college days at South Florida.

"There were great clips last season of him just doing his 1/11th both in the run and the pass," LaFleur said. "So I think it's just the consistency that he comes out with each and every day."

That's probably what will determine the contents and location of his next contract, because while last season was the best of his first three in the NFL, he still had five games where he didn't catch a pass, and two others with just one grab.

Regular opportunities might be even harder to come by in 2021, with the Packers adding veteran Randall Cobb and rookie third-round pick Amari Rodgers to a receiving corps that obviously played a key role in the Packers leading the league in scoring and in QB Aaron Rodgers winning his third MVP.

Valdes-Scantling had his most noticeable day in the early stages of camp on Saturday, catching a quick out and turning upfield past cornerback Josh Jackson for a long catch-and-run down the sideline. Later in the workout, he snagged another out from Rodgers against rookie first-round pick Eric Stokes.

He's also enjoying the reunion with Cobb, who was in his eighth year with the Packers when Valdes-Scantling was a rookie in 2018. Now that it's Cobb learning a new offense, they've swapped roles in the meeting room – "He's asking me questions, it's just like a complete reverse thing," he said – but Valdes-Scantling remains appreciative of what he learned from Cobb and continues to learn from the position's current leader, Davante Adams.

Where he refuses to play second fiddle is in the speed department, insisting there's "no question" he's still the fastest player on the team despite Stokes' 4.29 40-yard dash time at his pro day edging Valdes-Scantling's 4.37 from the scouting combine 3½ years ago.

However the players sort that pecking order is up to them, but there's no dispute as to how important this season is for Valdes-Scantling. Even LaFleur labeled it "a big year for him," and no one is calling him a finished product.

How much growth is out there and where it will manifest itself, time will tell.

"It's not really honing in on or something I'm focused on – I've got to run slants better or I've got to be able to do this better," he said. "I'm not really focused on that. It's more so just being the best version of myself and whatever this team needs me to be."

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