GREEN BAY – Cornerback Demetri Goodson would in all likelihood take exception to rookie receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s catch on a deep ball being labeled Monday’s play of the day at Packers training camp.
Valdes-Scantling had a hand on Goodson’s back while tracking DeShone Kizer’s long throw, and whether or not he pushed off just before going up to haul it in would be up to the official.
“I don’t listen to it,” a smiling Valdes-Scantling said of some chirping from the defensive backs after he made the contested grab. “Just went back to the huddle. Next play.”
The point is not whether a flag would have been thrown, though. It’s that the play was the kind Valdes-Scantling, a fifth-round pick out of South Florida, has had other opportunities to make thus far, and this time he followed through.
“I missed that same type of pass last weekend, so coming out and being able to make that same play, they’ll have trust in me,” he said. “So I want to keep making those plays.”
Later in practice he made another one with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, and Valdes-Scantling showed off his speed down the middle seam and snagged a typical Rodgers laser in stride.
Reps with Rodgers haven’t been all that frequent for Valdes-Scantling and the other rookie draft picks at receiver, J’Mon Moore and Equanimeous St. Brown, because Geronimo Allison and Jake Kumerow have stepped forward behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb thus far.
But it makes those sporadic chances all the more significant, and Valdes-Scantling delivered on a big one, a nice boost just a few days before his first NFL preseason game Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
“Yeah, they’re definitely important,” he said of the snaps with Rodgers. “You want every rep with him. He runs the show, so if you can get on the same page with him, you’re in good hands.”
Valdes-Scantling’s plays highlighted Monday’s post-Family Night practice, which carried with it a few news items.
Cobb returned to the field after sitting out some last week to rest his ankle, left tackle David Bakhtiari’s ankle injury was deemed a short-term one, and cornerbacks Kevin King (shoulder, not his surgically repaired one) and Jaire Alexander (groin) sat out.
Third-year safety Kentrell Brice also returned to practice on a limited basis after getting carted off Ray Nitschke Field last week with an ankle injury. Brice was coming back from having surgery on that ankle last year, and when he went down, he was simply praying he wasn’t having a Groundhog Day moment.
“Immediately what went through my mind was I just had surgery in November. I’m not trying to do this again,” he said. “It wasn’t broken, so it was a positive outlook.”
The general outlook is for camp to hit another gear now, with the first of four preseason games rapidly approaching.
Among many positions, the receiver group will be in the spotlight with the trio of draft picks and other young contenders like Kumerow looking to make a more noteworthy statement.
“That’s what I’ve already been telling the young guys,” Adams said. “Camp evaluations are one thing, and then it turns to a different ballgame when the lights are on and you’re going against a different team. You can show them why they brought you here.”
Like all the young receivers, Valdes-Scantling has gone through his ups and downs in camp. A day like Monday can be a strong building block to put more of his game on display.
Valdes-Scantling’s speed has stood out from the get go, and a key for him has been not slowing down even while trying to learn and absorb the offense. Reliability and consistency are among his next targets.
“The kid is fast and he plays really, really fast. He has to get used to just finishing on a few of these plays,” Adams said. “He has a lot of talent. One of the hardest things to do when you haven’t mastered the playbook is play fast, and he’s like he got shot out of a cannon every single play. All I can tell him is just get in the habit of finishing.”
Thursday night can’t get here soon enough.
“It’ll definitely be nice to be able to go against somebody else,” Valdes-Scantling said. “We’ve been going at it since OTAs. You see the same guys every day. It’s going to be a nice change-up in the competition.”