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Luke Musgrave eager to write first chapter in Green Bay

Second-round pick has been a key part of Packers’ youth movement on offense

TE Luke Musgrave
TE Luke Musgrave

GREEN BAY – Luke Musgrave has played a lot of football in his 23 years, but on the eve of making his NFL debut, this week just hits different for the rookie tight end.

"I'm really excited," Musgrave said. "I don't know if I've ever been this excited for football."

As the Packers ready to open the season Sunday against the Chicago Bears, Musgrave and a collection of young tight ends have a pivotal part to play for a Green Bay offense in transition.

The 6-foot-6, 253-pound rookie has been running with the Packers' starters pretty much since the day he was drafted. His second-round selection (42nd overall) was the highest of any tight end Green Bay has drafted in 23 years.

Should Musgrave start in Chicago, he'll be the fourth rookie to open the season at tight end for the Packers since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, joining Josiah Deguara (2020), Richard Rodgers (2014) and Jackie Harris (1990).

The tight end position can be tricky for rookies to master, but Musgrave held his own since being thrown into deep end. He put five receptions and 75 snaps in his back pocket during the preseason and hopes to use the upcoming slate to further grow his game.

"Tight end is a hard position because you gotta know the pass game and the run game as well as a lot of protection games," Musgrave said.

"I know I'm going to go out there and prepare hard like I always do, and try to put my best foot forward and try to make some plays and help the offense in any way I can, whether that be getting a run block, getting a pass block, or catching. I don't care as long as I'm out there contributing."

Coincidently, the Packers face off with their top tight-end tandem from the past three years on Sunday after both Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan signed with the Bears this offseason.

Lewis will actually make NFL history in the opener, embarking on an unprecedented 18th season for a tight end. The 39-year-old veteran played five campaigns in Green Bay, catching 57 passes for 582 yards and six touchdowns while being twice named a team captain.

Tonyan rose from a late-season addition to the practice squad in 2017 to an offensive staple responsible for 137 receptions, 1,437 yards and 17 TDs in 68 appearances for the Packers.

"Any time you lose veterans, you've got guys that you've seen what they can do in the heat of the battle and certainly miss those guys," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said.

"Got a lot of love and respect for those two guys. But at the same time, we're focused on the guys that we have and I'm excited for these young guys, to get 'em out there."

The Packers doubled down on tight ends in this year's draft, selecting both Musgrave and South Dakota State's Tucker Kraft (third round, 78th overall) on Day 2. It was the first time Green Bay drafted two tight ends inside the top 100 in team history.

The Packers planned to pair the two prospects with returning veterans Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis, but the latter was lost for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last month in Cincinnati.

The Packers filled Davis' spot with undrafted rookie Ben Sims, whom they claimed off waivers from Minnesota at the end of training camp. Now, Deguara represents the only tight end on the active roster who's played in an actual NFL game.

Whatever Musgrave lacks in experience he makes up for in potential. His size and speed make him a viable threat in the middle of the field and a playmaker that safeties must account for at all times.

"He definitely stretches the field, no doubt," said rookie receiver Jayden Reed, who was drafted eight spots after Musgrave. "A guy that huge who can run at tight end like that and make big plays, that definitely opens (things) up the receiver corps. I'm just looking forward to seeing him go out there and do what he do."

With top wideouts Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs missing practice Wednesday with hamstring injuries, both Reed and Musgrave could come into play for the Packers in Chicago.

With a solid grasp of the offense, Musgrave feels ready for whatever LaFleur and his coaches ask of the rookie in Chicago. While a road opener against the Packers' biggest rival sets quite the stage for an NFL debut, Musgrave isn't making this showdown any bigger than the other 16 on the schedule.

"Obviously, it's a huge game. It's a big moment for me but I try to keep it – it's football," Musgrave said. "We're gonna go out and try to play the best we can and beat the Chicago Bears is the goal."