Before Jared Abbrederis could get back on the practice field, he had to figure out if he should return.
Abbrederis, the Wisconsin native and former University of Wisconsin receiving star, practiced on Tuesday, the final day of Green Bay Packers training camp. He had been out since suffering a concussion on the first day of training camp.
“I think you have to be 100 percent confident with how you feel, your body, because if you’re not, you’re not going to be able to play at this level, because you can’t have any doubt,” Abbrederis said. “I think the organization here did a really good job of turning over every stone and things like that, so that I can have my confidence. Just like with the knee, if you don’t have confidence in your knee, you can’t play. Same with any injury, you just have to be confident. Turn over everything. I have full confidence right now.”
Abbrederis’ month-long absence came on the heels of missing all of last season with a torn ACL. It was just a handful of practices last summer, but he had quickly won over Aaron Rodgers and appeared to be on his way to making the roster as a fifth-round rookie.
Now, he faces the long odds of making the roster after missing 15 of the 17 training camp practices.
“It’s tough not being out here,” he said. “It’s more frustrating than anything. That’s the biggest thing you have to overcome is the frustrations and not being out there. You work all year, especially last year with the injury. Then, work all year to come back and then come back and have something like that happen, it’s unfortunate but it’s another obstacle like I was saying. The biggest thing was the frustration of trying to get over that.”
Abbrederis got a couple of opportunities on Tuesday. On the first, he got behind Casey Hayward but Scott Tolzien’s deep pass was thrown just out of his reach as he dove head-long for the ball. Later, in a red-zone drill, he made a diving catch in the end zone but was ruled out of bounds.
“He laid out for a ball today, went face-first into the ground, popped right back up,” quarterbacks/receivers coach Alex Van Pelt said. “We kind of joked about it and said, 'OK, you passed your test, now you're good to go.' No, but I'm excited to have him back in the group.”
Even without Jordy Nelson, Abbrederis seems like the longest of long shots to make the 53-man roster. First, there’s the rust of not playing in a game since his senior season at Wisconsin. Second, he’s in good shape but not in game shape.
But when Van Pelt considers Abbrederis’ full body of work, he looks back to last year’s training camp - and even that was a short one, as he was injured during the fourth practice of camp.
“I thought before he was injured last year in camp, he was having an outstanding camp,” Van Pelt said. “He was a guy that shined, stood out. We know what he can do, it's just a matter of him not having the bad breaks of the concussion this year, had the ACL last year. Got to get a little luck here with his health, but we know what he can do. We know he's got some talent, some ability and he showed that before he was injured last year.”
Third, would the Packers dare spend a precious roster spot on a player they don’t know if they can count on? Perhaps Abbrederis’ luck is due to change. On the other hand, after missing a month with a concussion and with at least one concussion at Wisconsin — Abbrederis wouldn’t say how many he had in college — is he damaged goods?
The Packers’ medical staff provided answers that convinced Abbrederis that it was safe to play again. Then, he had to convince his wife, Rachel. Together, they have an infant daughter. To that end, he talked to former Wisconsin teammate Chris Borland, who abruptly retired in March due to concussions.
“With the confidence, with doing a good job of turning over every stone, I feel like I could have that confidence of coming back and playing and not really worrying,” Abbrederis said. “A lot of stones were turned over and I feel confident. I wouldn’t be back and they wouldn’t let me be back here if they weren’t confident. A lot of stuff was looked at and it’s good to be back.”
Abbrederis is a native of Wautoma, Wis. Assuming he plays, Thursday will be his first game in Lambeau Field. He said there’s no pressure to produce in his one chance to state his case to the coaching staff and general manager Ted Thompson.
Rather, he’s simply excited to play the game he loves.
“I’m excited to be out there,” he said. “I was out there on the sideline last week and it was just awesome to see the fans and just be around for the game. Last year I was up in the box, I wasn’t able to be on the sideline. That got me pumped and excited to come out here and I’m excited for Thursday.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.