Mike McCarthy can't help praising Jared Abbrederis' 'exemplary' play

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Perhaps it wasn't meant to be a hard-and-fast rule. Maybe Mike McCarthy intended it as more of a guideline.

Whatever it was, the fact that the Green Bay Packers head coach broke it a few seconds after announcing it, well, that said far more about third-year wide receiver Jared Abbrederis than even McCarthy's glowing praise did.

At the end of last year's offseason program, McCarthy had seen so many good things from Davante Adams that he declared the then-second year wide receiver the team's offseason "MVP." Then Adams was plagued by ankle and knee problems and struggled when thrust into the starting lineup by Jordy Nelson's season-ending knee injury in preseason.

So, as the team's offseason program officially wrapped up last week, McCarthy basically called for a moratorium on offseason commendations.

"I've stood up here in the past and ranted and raved about [players to] you guys. But it's not fair to them," he said. "It's unfortunate. You compliment somebody, it becomes a wave of expectations and more things that they've got to deal with.

"We've got a general philosophy in dealing with the media [that] you don't want to create questions for other people in the locker room. I think sometimes when [I] come out here and divulge [my thoughts] and praise for certain guys, it creates questions in the locker room that they really don't need."

And then, McCarthy couldn't help himself. If he was worried about ratcheting up outside expectations for Abbrederis, he probably should've avoided using the words "exemplary" and "exceptional" in his reply to a question about Abbrederis' offseason.

But, he had to tell the truth.

"I think Jared's had his best offseason," McCarthy said. "I think his route running is exemplary for a young guy. His ability to recognize coverages, and his time clock, his breaking points, his ability to drop his weight -- just all the specifics and details and techniques of route running, I think he's exceptional.

"He just needs to continue to work on getting stronger. He plays the position technically and fundamentally at a very high level."

It is that detailed, be-where-you're-supposed-to-be approach that quickly won over quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who took a liking to Abbrederis shortly after the Packers took him out of Wisconsin in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. After watching Abbrederis miss all of his rookie season with a torn ACL, Rodgers saw Abbrederis start to emerge last season, then called for him to get more playing time late in the year before expressing confidence in him again as the playoffs began.

But just as he never let Rodgers' confidence in him go to his head, Abbrederis is unlikely to make McCarthy regret his kind words.

"Obviously there's things to improve on still," said Abbrederis had 15 receptions for 180 yards (including playoffs) last season. "Right now it doesn't matter whether it's good or bad -- I mean, obviously you want to have a successful offseason -- but it all matters during camp. It will be fun to be back and competing once we get back."

While Abbrederis faces stiff competition at receiver -- the Packers could be eight or nine deep with receivers deserving of a 53-man roster spot -- his global understanding of the offense helps his chances. Abbrederis said he spent this offseason "trying to learn more than just what you're doing at your position, but why. I think asking why things happen, so you can understand the playbook better helps, you to run better routes and be in better position."

For Abbrederis, getting stronger and staying healthy will decide how far he goes. He's been injured during the opening week of each of his first two training camps -- the knee in 2014 and a severe concussion last summer -- but he appeared thicker in his upper body this offseason, hoping some added bulk leads to greater durability. He might have had an even bigger breakout season last year if not for the broken ribs he suffered against Detroit on Nov. 15.

"Injuries obviously don't help so you want to stay as healthy as you can. You've got to be out there," Abbrederis said, adding that he'd like to play this season at 195 pounds, the heaviest of his career. "I've put all the weight back on that I needed. I'd still like to gain a little bit [before camp].

"This offseason I tried to work on the more intricate smaller muscles within the larger groups just to help with injury prevention. A lot of times you can try to focus on the ones that look good, but I really tried to focus on the more intricate ones to hopefully help with injury prevention."