Health Issues Test Rookie Receivers

“Shocked” and “surprise” were words used by two Packers rookie wide receivers upon finding out their health issues. While one — Jeff Janis — hopes to make up for lost time the remainder of training camp, the other — Jared Abbrederis — has only the playbook and recovery to look forward to.

Almost simultaneously, rookies Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis are heading in different directions this Green Bay Packers training camp.

On Monday, Janis was removed from the non-football illness list (shingles) and has participated in a limited, non-contact role the past two days.

Last week, Abbrederis tore his ACL and will miss his first NFL season.

Both wide receivers were in the Packers locker room following Tuesday’s practice and spoke about their divergent and unexpected health issues.

“It was a little stressful coming in as a rookie. It’s not something you expect to sit out and watch the first two weeks,” said Janis, a seventh-round pick. “So it was definitely a little bit stressful, but like I said, just keep paying attention in meetings and watching the guys being able to do it.”

“It’s obviously frustrating but I know God has a plan and that’s what I kind of rely on going through my life I guess with everything that’s ever happened,” added Abbrederis, a fifth-round pick. “Just trying to find strength in that knowing that he’s got a plan for me.”

Abbrederis, a home state fan favorite, was off to a strong start in camp. Then last Wednesday, he was rolled up on while blocking downfield. He said his knee felt a little sore later that day but practiced the following day not thinking anything was all that wrong. When it felt sore again, he had it checked out. “When I got the news, I was kind of shocked,” he said.

Competing realistically for the No. 4 spot at wide receiver, Abbrederis’ loss may not immediately hurt the Packers at a position group that features veterans Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Jarrett Boykin and rookie second-round pick Davante Adams. But his injury does impact greatly the competition for punt return duties where he was the leading candidate for the job and a standout at Wisconsin. At Tuesday’s practice, four players – Micah Hyde, Randall Cobb, Tramon Williams, and Myles White – took turns fielding punts.

In the meantime, Abbrederis, who expects to have surgery within the next two weeks, hardly looked like a player with a torn ACL walking around practice on Tuesday.

“I mean, there’s no need to sit around and not do anything so I’m going to do some stuff while I can and catch some passes and be around the guys,” he said.

Janis did just about as much on Tuesday. He was only watching during team periods. He has not been cleared for contact yet, but did some contact work with team trainers following practice.

“Right now I feel normal. I feel like 100%,” said Janis. “So, I’m ready to go. Just waiting to get cleared.”

Janis found out he had shingles, a condition caused by the chickenpox virus, a day before training camp opened. He went to the hospital after he had bad pains on the left side of his body and had difficulty breathing.

“It took me by surprise. I didn’t know what it was,” he said. “It’s definitely not something I’d want anybody to ever get.”

Shingles can be a debilitating virus that can last months or even years. Luckily, Janis said his condition was caught in the early stages. So, with medication, it should be a short-term issue. After missing the first nine days of camp, he certainly feels more upbeat about it now.

“It’s a little frustrating but I guess you’ve just got to take it one step at a time and just hope that when I get put in there and my opportunities come that I’ll make the play,” he said.

“So far I’ve just been taking mental reps. I’m non-contact. So, hopefully by this Saturday (when the Packers play at Tennessee in the preseason opener) I’ll be good to go.”

In shorts and no pads in OTAs and the mini-camp, Janis bared a resemblance to Nelson, the No. 1 receiver for the Packers. At 6-3, 219 pounds, with a 40 time of 4.42, he was one of the best athletes at wide receiver coming out of the NFL Draft. But in the NFL, athletic ability can sometimes only get a player so far.

Janis is adjusting to the details and route running specifics demanded by the Packers offensive coaches. Plus, he said his offense at Division II Saginaw Valley State was “100% different than what it is here.” The mental “reps” should help on top of his previous off-season work.

“It’s like a whole different world here,” he said. “But it was a good thing I was here in minicamp and OTAs to kind of get used to it and get in the swing of things.

“It’s not ‘learn one position’ here at all. You have to know every position and every detail at every position. So that’s the thing I think that kind of surprised me the most but it’s a good thing to know because when you get out there and you have to play a different position, you’re going to know.

“I don’t think it’s too late,” he continued of trying to make a statement in camp. “I think the coaches know what I can do. Hopefully in the preseason games I’ll be able to show that. So, I’ll be able to make my mark that way.”

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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at

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