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Packers' receiving corps has health questions heading into opener vs. Bears

New starting QB Jordan Love taking it all in stride


GREEN BAY – The Packers might be in next-man-up mode right away in Week 1.

With prep work for the Bears cranking up in earnest on Wednesday, receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs both missed practice with hamstring injuries.

Doubs' injury surfaced as the preseason wrapped up, but Watson's is new, and Head Coach Matt LaFleur said both players will be given all week to see if they might be able to play.

On top of that, rookie receiver Dontayvion Wicks returned to practice but only on a limited basis from the hamstring injury that kept him out the second half of training camp.

So in all that's three of the six receivers on the 53-man roster, headlined by the top two, whose statuses are iffy for Sunday's season opener in Chicago.

It's certainly less than ideal for Jordan Love's first game as the new starting quarterback, but the Packers are determined not to let all the uncertainty throw their preparation off track.

"We've got a plan in place and we'll play the guys that are available and ready to go," LaFleur said. "The one thing about this league is nobody cares. You've got to find a way to get it done, and I think our guys have taken that mindset no matter who's out there.

"The expectations remain the same and that is to go out there and play winning football."

The situation could shine an even brighter spotlight on rookie second-round draft picks Jayden Reed at receiver and Luke Musgrave at tight end, who already were slated to have significant roles in the offense.

Love noted those two have "taken some strides" and expressed confidence they can handle any workload thrown their way. They'll just have even less time to work out any nerves or jitters in their NFL debut.

"The closer I get to it, probably, maybe," Reed said of being nervous for his first pro game. "But right now, I'm dialed in, trying to get a good week in of practice and making sure it converts over to the game."

Undrafted rookie Malik Heath will be making his debut as well, albeit with possibly a larger role than previously envisioned. Heath was the Packers' leading receiver in the preseason and is simply staying geared up for whatever opportunity comes his way.

"I'm ready. I'm ready," Heath said. "Coach prepared us well, throughout last week and this week, with the game plans. I've been studying a lot, studying the (Chicago) corners a lot.

"In my eyes, I'm prepared well, so I'm ready."

If Watson and Doubs are both unable to go Sunday, the Packers' most experienced receiver will be second-year pro Samori Toure, who caught five passes for 82 yards and a TD as a seventh-round rookie in 2022.

The level-headed Toure's progress was mentioned all offseason by the coaching staff, and he just might have a chance to put it on display sooner than anticipated.

"He's just so much more comfortable within the offense," LaFleur said. "I know he's a guy that you can line him up in any position, whether it's the X, in the slot or the Z. He just has a complete command and grasp of the offense. That's a huge luxury."

That luxury may become a necessity given the Packers' predicament, but the player least likely to let it bother him no matter how it shakes out is Love.

Praised repeatedly for his poise and steadiness, not just since his arrival but particularly since taking over as QB1 for Aaron Rodgers, Love is more excited than anything else to take this next step in his and the team's journey.

Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's practice, he was his usual relaxed self, appreciating what lies ahead with the confidence the locker room is behind him all the way.

Cornerback Jaire Alexander mentioned during training camp how Love wasn't bothered by any of his trash talk. Then running back Aaron Jones on Wednesday brought up a conversation he had with assistant QB coach Connor Lewis, who admitted he hasn't been able to "get up under his skin" despite various efforts.

"You can't tell that he's nervous," Jones said. "I was talking to (Lewis) and I'm like, 'This guy is the right guy for this. He doesn't get rattled. He doesn't get shook. He's always poised.'

"He's calm, cool and collected. He's more than ready, and we're ready to help him."

No matter who's out there at receiver, the guys at the top of the depth chart, or the ones behind them.

"It's like all we got is each other," Toure said. "Everybody's talking about how young we are, how inexperienced we are and how we're going to be, but all that stuff kind of brings us closer together.

"We all have the utmost confidence in each other. We trust each other to know what to do and do our jobs."

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