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Jordan Love has 'different look in his eye' heading into first start

Young Packers QB going to Kansas City confident he’s prepared and ready

QB Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love

GREEN BAY – Matt LaFleur attributes two key characteristics to the Jordan Love he's witnessed on the practice field this week.

The head coach sees a second-year quarterback who's "really locked in" and carrying himself with a "calm demeanor" as he readies for his first NFL start on Sunday in Kansas City.

"This is something he's been preparing for, for really his whole life," LaFleur said after Friday's practice. "Now, it's his opportunity to go out there and showcase what he can do.

"But it's not just him. It takes everybody."

That it does, but no spotlight will shine brighter than the one on Love, who's replacing Aaron Rodgers after the three-time MVP QB tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

Love is perfectly aware of everything that surrounds this performance, both team-wise and individually.

The Packers are taking a seven-game winning streak to Arrowhead Stadium as one of four one-loss teams in the NFC looking to remain atop the conference. The 2020 first-round draft pick also is making his first meaningful audition to be the team's next quarterback whenever the Rodgers era concludes.

He's doing his best not to make it "bigger than it needs to be," and he's spent the week drawing upon his extended time this past spring as the team's No. 1 QB, while Rodgers was away from the team.

During that stretch, Love gained a greater comfort level with the offense and grew into the natural leadership role demanded of his position. All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, who has been activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list after missing last week's game, saw that presence developing through May and June, and it's taken on a different intensity this week.

"When you have an opportunity to be on the field, you definitely see another … kind of a different look in his eye," Adams said. "So, I've been seeing that. He's been communicating well this week and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does."

Love's NFL game experience to this point consists of two preseason games this past August in which he was a combined 24-of-35 for 271 yards with one TD and one interception (89.1 passer rating), plus a Week 1 appearance late in the Packers' blowout loss in which he went 5-of-7 for 68 yards before losing the ball inside the Saints' 10-yard line on a sack-fumble.

His supporting cast will feature receivers Adams and Allen Lazard, who also was on the reserve/COVID-19 list last week, and it could include the return of receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (from IR) and All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (from PUP), who have been practicing but have not yet been activated to the 53-man roster.

The official word on those two would have to come Saturday if they're going to play. Regardless of the offense's proximity to full strength, LaFleur has spoken all week about the team rallying around Love as he takes on the added challenge of making his first start in one of the NFL's loudest outdoor stadiums.

"Obviously there's going to be some nerves there," Love said. "There always is, walking out of the tunnel. The atmosphere is going to be rocking. But I have a lot of confidence in myself, a lot of confidence in this team, and those dudes are going to take care of me.

"We've had a great week of practice. Those dudes are attacking it, and they're giving me a lot of confidence to go out there and play my best, too."

Love said he's spoken with Rodgers off and on during the week, and the veteran QB has simply encouraged him to "play my game and ball out." Love has appreciated the opportunity to go through an entire week of game-planning, repping the plays in practice, and giving feedback to the coaching staff on the ones he feels best about.

It's been a whole new world of responsibility, one that would inevitably come, no matter how strange the circumstances. Those observing Love have noted his approach has been as they expected.

"He's been really focused," said fellow 2020 draft pick and running back AJ Dillon, one of Love's best friends on the team. "Not that he isn't usually, but definitely knowing that he's going to be taking that starting snap, he's really been dialed in."

All that's left is to take that first snap, and play the game.

"I've been preparing myself for that moment," Love said, "and now's the time."

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