His first season was ruined by a torn ACL.
His second season was derailed by a concussion.
On Thursday night, Wisconsin native and former Wisconsin star Jared Abbrederis made his Green Bay Packers debut.
“I’m pretty sore right now, but it was fun being out there,” Abbrederis said. “The crowd was awesome, and it was just a fun experience to be out there.”
Fun and long-awaited. The knee injury sustained during the first week of training camp last summer cost him the entire season. The concussion sustained on the first day of training camp this summer kept him out of the next 15 practices. He returned on Tuesday and, despite that smattering of practice reps, played the vast majority of the Packers’ 65 offensive snaps on Thursday.
It was a quiet debut – he caught 1-of-4 passes -- but a successful one, nonetheless. His 6-yard reception was the first time he had been tackled in a game since Jan. 1, 2014.
“It was good to get out there, take a couple shots on that one catch,” Abbrederis said. “Take a couple hits and pop right up, that felt good (to) just not really worry about anything. But, yeah, it’s been a long trip last year and the beginning of camp this year.”
Abbrederis also handled punt-return duties. He cleanly caught all four opportunities, with an 11.7-yard average on his three runbacks. He broke three tackles on his first return, a 17-yard return. However, he fumbled on a return late in the second quarter – a penalty on the Saints erased that play from the official stats. In the third quarter, he was tackled by the ankles on an 8-yard return that had the potential to go for a long gain.
“Just kind of what you saw in college. He's very natural. He doesn't flinch,” coach Mike McCarthy said of what he saw of Abbrederis on returns. “He's experienced at it, No. 1. I think any time you see the returner able to have the patience and the cleanness to not waste a step on a tight-coverage reception, it tells you a little bit about the guy. He's got quickness. He's got good vision. Just from what I saw on the replays, it looked like his reads were correct. It was good to get him those opportunities.”
After waiting for two summers to play in his first game, Abbrederis’ next wait will be much shorter. The Packers must get down to 53 players by 3 p.m. (Central) on Saturday.
Did he do enough? Can a player with such a short professional resume earn a spot on a championship contender’s roster with just two practices and one game? Can he help a receiving corps with nothing but question marks beyond Randall Cobb and Davante Adams? Or is the injury history just too much to use a precious roster spot?
“I don’t know. I’ll leave that up for you guys to decide, or the coaches to decide,” Abbrederis said. “I was just trying to go out there, have fun and do what I could. It’s a limited time. I wish I could’ve been back earlier, have a couple more games under my belt. But that’s what it is, so you’ve just got to roll with the punches.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.