GREEN BAY — Brian Gutekunst might’ve gotten a tiny bit carried away. Or maybe the Green Bay Packers general manager really did think his hand-picked quarterback of the future, Jordan Love, had a “fantastic” training camp — despite missing a week of practice and the second of the team’s three preseason games with a right throwing shoulder injury.
“I thought he had a fantastic camp. I really did,” Gutekunst told reporters during his post-final cutdown Q&A session Wednesday morning. “Obviously he had a little bit of a pause in there where he missed some time, which would have been nice for him to have. But I thought he did an excellent job. (We) really saw the growth we needed to see in (him).
“I was excited for him. Obviously, nothing’s perfect. And there’s definitely some things in there that I think he’ll take from this preseason with him as he goes. But I thought it was fantastic.”
Having missed the team’s Week 2 loss to the New York Jets with what Love described Saturday as a strained rotator cuff in his right (throwing) shoulder, Love finished preseason play having played 66 snaps, completing 24 of 35 passes (68.6%) for 271 yards with one touchdown, one interception and two sacks (89.1 rating).
In practices, there’s no question Love looked better than he had in last year’s truncated training camp, when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out all on-field offseason practice work. But he struggled to find success during 2-minute drills and showed the kind of inconsistency most young quarterbacks exhibit.
Coach Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterbacks coach/passing-game coordinator Luke Getsy, while also positive in their reviews of Love’s summer, were more measured in their praise and emphasized two bad decisions Love made in the preseason finale at Buffalo — one interception in the end zone and one near-INT in the red zone — were important “teachable moments.”
Asked what made Love’s camp “fantastic” and where he saw the most growth from the 2020 first-round draft pick, Gutekunst replied: “I thought for his first live action since Utah State, I thought he was very calm, poised. I thought he was able to get in and out of the plays that Matt wanted him to get in and out of. I didn’t think the rush bothered him. I thought he kept his eyes downfield.
“He obviously made some really good throws. And again, obviously there were some moments in there that he’ll look back on and grow from, but at the same time, he moved the team. We would’ve liked to finish better in that last game, but I thought it was really, really positive.”
Patience key in Bakhtiari call
To hear Gutekunst and LaFleur tell it, the decision to have franchise left tackle David Bakhtiari start the season on the physically unable to perform list — meaning he won’t be eligible to play until after at least the season’s first six games — wasn’t much of a decision at all. Bakhtiari tore the ACL in his left knee during a Dec. 31 practice, and he was put on the PUP list on Tuesday, eight months to the day from the injury.
“He’s such a cornerstone piece to this organization and such an important part of what we’re doing,” Gutekunst said. “I just think where he’s at and where we thought he could be in the first six weeks, this was the best thing for the team and for David. … Rushing him out there was not going to be something I was comfortable doing.”
Gutekunst said the team views ACL tears as a nine- to 11-month recovery, and LaFleur said that while Bakhtiari pushed hard through his rehabilitation to get ready for the Sept. 12 opener, the coaches worked off the current timeline throughout camp.
Scott gets the boot
Gutekunst said the decision to cut JK Scott and replace him with new punter Corey Bojorquez via a trade with the Los Angeles Rams was simply an opportunity to upgrade at the position.
“We’re always looking for a chance to get better,” Gutekunst said. “Obviously, Corey had a fantastic year in Buffalo last year and just watching him this preseason, we thought this was a chance for us to get better.”
The trade cost the Packers almost nothing, as they gave up a 2023 sixth-round pick but got a seventh-rounder back from the Rams with Bojorquez. Gutekunst said the pro scouting staff monitored him throughout preseason and knew that he would get claimed by a team with a higher priority on the waiver wire had the Packers not traded for him.
Practice squad set
The Packers filled their 16-man practice squad exclusively with players who were in camp with them, signing quarterback Kurt Benkert; running back Patrick Taylor; wide receivers Equanimeous St. Browns, Chris Blair and Juwann Winfree; tight end Bronson Kaufusi; offensive linemen Ben Braden, Jacob Capra and Cole Van Lanen, the Green Bay-area native and University of Wisconsin alum; defensive linemen Abdullah Anderson and Willington Previlon; outside linebacker Tipa Galeai; inside linebacker Ray Wilborn; cornerback Kabion Ento; safety Innis Gaines; and kicker JJ Molson. … Wide receiver Reggie Begelton, running back Dexter Williams and safety Christian Uphoff, all of whom had strong camps, did not return on the practice squad. … Edge rusher Za’Darius Smith (back) did not take part in Wednesday’s practice and LaFleur said the status of the Pro Bowl outside linebacker for the opener is “up in the air.” Smith practiced only once in training camp. “We’re optimistic that potentially he’ll be back out there sooner than later,” LaFleur said. … Asked if he talked with quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the final roster reductions, Gutekunst replied, “I’ve had really good conversations throughout camp with Aaron and Matt, and I think the communication’s been really, really good. As we went into this decision-making period, all the people who were involved with that were very aware of what was going on, why we were doing what we were doing. I feel really good about that. The conversations that I’ve had with Aaron were excellent.”
Photos: Packers' 2021 season in pictures
Check out photo galleries from every game of 2021 from the preseason through the end of the regular season and the playoffs.
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