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Packers' roster has rallied around Jordan Love in Year 1

Steadiness, solidarity have been the backbone of quarterback’s breakout season

QB Jordan Love and teammates
QB Jordan Love and teammates

GREEN BAY – Each week for the past four months, Packers fans from one coast to the other have watched Jordan Love's maturation from the first-year starting quarterback to becoming the first Green Bay player to capture back-to-back NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

The superlatives are extraordinary. Love is just the third NFL QB to post 4,000-plus passing yards and 32-plus passing TDs in his first season with multiple starts, joining Kurt Warner (1999) and Patrick Mahomes (2018). He's also the first QB to help lead the Packers to the postseason in his first full year as a starter since at least 1950.

What those outside the walls of Lambeau Field don't get to see, however, is a young QB whose impact in the locker room goes beyond statistics. Those who do are quick to credit Love for a steady brand of leadership that has helped bring together a locker room during a critical year of transition.

"If your quarterback can be that guy for everyone to lean on, it just makes it even easier for everybody," receiver Christian Watson said. "Obviously, he is that catalyst and that center point of the offense and honestly even the team. He's done a great job at just owning that role right away and bringing us all together. Through the good and the bad, he's always been there."

Love took over the QB1 mantle in Green Bay from future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers, who was traded to the New York Jets prior to last April's NFL Draft. Love's charge not only was to follow in the footsteps of a legend but also lead the league's youngest team.

Love showed promise right out of the gate, including a dominant three-touchdown performance in the Packers' 38-20 win over Chicago in the season opener. Early success was met with midseason adversity, but Love's progress was palpable. Over the past two months, the 25-year-old quarterback has been lights out.

Over his last eight games, Love has completed 196 of 279 passes (70.3%) for 2,150 yards, 18 touchdowns and just one interception (112.7 passer rating). Green Bay won six of those contests to set the stage for Sunday's NFC Wild Card showdown with the Dallas Cowboys.

"Everybody looks to him as a leader," said guard Jon Runyan of Love. "He's got complete control of this offense, and what he does. We trust him, and you're able to see it on the field. He's a great guy, a great person in the locker room, and the stuff he's done for us is unbelievable, and hopefully you can sustain it and keep it going forward in these playoffs."

It's not just the touchdowns, though. Love has brought his young teammates along with him, both figuratively and literally. Last summer, the 6-foot-4, 219-pound quarterback welcomed a handful of teammates to work out with him in his home state of California. Since the team reported for training camp, Love has kept the camaraderie events going in Green Bay.

When the offense was going through a rough patch earlier this season, Love helped organize Tuesday film sessions with the receivers to help get on the same page. More recently, he's hosted teammates at his house on two occasions for chicken, lamb chops and Monday Night Football. It started as an open invitation to the offense, but a few of the defensive players also dropped by.

Everyone was met with open arms and a full plate.

"I think that speaks volumes. That's how you truly come together as a team and get to know each other, bond," running back Aaron Jones said. "You're playing for each other, but you've got to know each other to play for each other. I feel like that's one of the biggest ways – communion, breaking bread together.

"Who doesn't love to eat? Especially Jordan has a nice crib, so we love kicking back over there, playing some pool, watching Monday Night Football, whatever it might be. Eating good food, desserts and just enjoying ourselves."

Love doesn't feel like he's doing anything special and won't take credit for the team-bonding events, saying it's simply things he's seen other leaders do before him. However, those new to life in the NFL beg to differ.

"That just showed … his care for us and his care for the team and the game and that's where he earned our respect," said receiver Jayden Reed, who this season became the first rookie to lead the Packers in both receptions and receiving yards since Sterling Sharpe in 1988.

"When you know somebody a little more, you're willing to go the extra inch for him and fight a little more for him. It's always great to get that brotherhood outside the building because at the end of the day, one day football's gonna end, man. If you don't got the brotherhood, you got no purpose."

There's no analytical way to measure what impact a few dinners and get-togethers have had on the Packers this season, but the team has navigated its share of turbulence, particularly on the injury front, to reel off three straight wins to end the regular season and earn a trip to the postseason

With Love preparing to take his first playoff snap under center, there's an entire locker room ready to lay it all on the line for its QB.

"He's always had the talent since he first got here and he figured it out," said eighth-year defensive lineman Kenny Clark of Love. "(He) sat behind Aaron and learned from one of the best to ever do it and it's been awesome to see him do this.

"We've got a lot of young guys on this offense and a lot of young guys on this team. For him to lead us like this says a lot about him, a lot about his character and a lot about his work and a lot about the man. I'm excited for Jordan and happy he's our quarterback."

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