GREEN BAY, Wis. -- First, Aaron Rodgers gave Jared Abbrederis a nickname. (“Magic,” as in abracadabra -- get it?) Then, he gave Abbrederis his trust. (Not an easy thing to earn from the Green Bay Packers quarterback, FYI.) And a few weeks ago, Rodgers gave Abbrederis a very public vote of confidence. (He called for the second-year wide receiver to get more playing time.)
Now, Abbrederis could get something else from Rodgers: The ball -- frequently -- in Saturday night’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.
With wide receiver Davante Adams unlikely to play after suffering a knee injury in the Packers’ NFC wild-card win Sunday at Washington, Abbrederis is the next man up behind veterans Randall Cobb and James Jones if Adams can’t go.
Abbrederis played a season-high 28 snaps against the Redskins and caught two passes for 14 yards, plus a picture-perfect throw-and-catch from Rodgers on a two-point conversion during the fourth quarter. For a guy who played just 100 regular-season snaps -- the fewest of the six wide receivers to spend time on the 53-man roster this season, including injured rookie third-round pick Ty Montgomery -- the possibility of having an important role in such a big game might be unnerving.
But not for Abbrederis, who arrived at Wisconsin as a little-known walk-on and left the school tied for the most receptions in Badgers history (202) and doesn’t seem the least bit overwhelmed by the situation.
“You can’t make it bigger than it is,” Abbrederis said Tuesday. “Obviously it’s a big game and all that, but it’s still football.”
Abbrederis, a 2014 fifth-round pick, missed all of last season with a torn right ACL, then missed most of the preseason with a concussion suffered on the first day of training camp. He was promoted from the practice squad in October and finished the regular season with nine receptions for 111 yards.
Nevertheless, Abbrederis quickly won Rodgers over last year and has only seen Rodgers’ confidence in him grow. Even after Packers coach Mike McCarthy benched Abbrederis in the Packers’ 38-8 loss at Arizona for dropping a pass, Rodgers didn’t lose faith in him. Part of his appeal to the quarterback: an innate ability to run crisp routes and create separation.
“He’s a great route runner,” Rodgers said leading up to the Packers’ first meeting with the Cardinals, on Dec. 27. (The quarterback isn’t scheduled to speak with reporters until Wednesday this week.) “He has a lot of body movements that are tough to key on. I think it’s about getting off the press [coverage] and finding ways to get open.
“That’s what he does. He’s a talented guy who I think is just earning more opportunity.”
Asked what he thought about Rodgers’ public support of him, Abbrederis replied, “It means a lot. Obviously you’ve got to prove it every day. Trust, it’s hard to earn -- but it’s so easy to lose that trust. So you have to make sure every day you’re doing the right stuff, making the plays when they come your way, just keep being consistent. That’s the biggest thing with him.”