When that day comes, they better make sure they still have Davante Adams around.
Any doubts about whether the Packers need to sign Adams to a long-term contract before he hits free agency in March were erased even before his two-touchdown game Sunday just 10 days after he was taken off the field and directly to the hospital because of a helmet hit from Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan.
Sunday’s performance buried those doubts forever, and in the process raised his price well over the $10 million-per-year mark.
Unlike in 2015, when Adams wasn’t ready to take over as the No. 1 receiver after Nelson blew out his knee in the preseason, the former second-round pick showed on the final drive in Sunday’s comeback win at Dallas why he’s a go-to guy.
Maybe even the go-to guy.
With Nelson sidelined because of an undisclosed injury, Rodgers went to Adams early (the first play of the game-winning drive was a 14-yard back-shoulder catch) and often (twice from the Cowboys’ 12-yard line for the eventual deciding score).
“There was never a doubt of, 'Can Davante Adams be an excellent, top-notch NFL football player?'” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “But it's a process. Every player goes through it. You have ups and downs and so forth.”
McCarthy and Rodgers never wavered when it came to their faith in Adams.
In the summer of 2015, McCarthy called Adams the MVP of the offseason. It didn't carry over to the regular season. He started the year with an ankle injury that bothered him most of the season and ended it with a knee injury that knocked him out of the playoffs.
When he came back for the start of the 2016 season, Adams was a different receiver. Since last year's season opener, he ranks second in the NFL in touchdown catches with 16 in 21 regular-season games. He trails only Nelson, who has 20 in that same stretch. Adams ranks tied for 21st in the NFL in catches (98) and 21st in receiving yards (1,282) dating to the start of last season.
“I think you can probably look at Davante’s case and you can see his maturity, his growth, how he’s handled certain situations, how he’s grown and gotten better,” Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “And that’s exciting. Because when you look at it and you think about it, he’s put himself in position to be one of the best at what he’s able to do.”
Throw in last year’s three playoff games, and Adams has 114 catches for 1,499 yards with 18 touchdowns.
“The most important thing that I have to give these guys, I've got to give them the training, the support, the culture to achieve that,” McCarthy said. “And I think that's the great illustration of, he was playing through injury, he was going through a rough spot. Clearly the fact that Aaron kept going to him speaks volumes, and this is why. He's the real deal.”
Which explains why Rodgers looked Adams’ way -- twice -- when the Packers needed a touchdown to beat the Cowboys. After Adams couldn’t quite come up with a potential score, he ran right back to the huddle and told Rodgers to throw the same pass again for a 12-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left.
It was the 20th time Adams and Rodgers have connected for a touchdown in the regular season. That pales in comparison to the 65 touchdowns for the Nelson-Rodgers combination, but they may be just getting started.
“It means a lot,” Adams said of Rodgers’ confidence in him. “That’s why we have to continue to do that. That’s why we work every week, work every day, to get on that page where I can come back and say that a guy like Aaron Rodgers is going to trust me to come down and make a play for the team in a crucial moment.”