Jeff Janis' broken hand a reminder why seven receivers unlikely for Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Training camp wasn’t even a week old when Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy matter-of-factly dismissed the idea that seven receivers could make his opening-day 53-man roster.

“You like to think you can have six receivers coming out of it, but really the players decide that," McCarthy said back on July 30. "Maybe it will be five.”

With all the talent at that position, many asked, "How could he say that?”

McCarthy, who is entering his 11th season as head coach, knows things have a way of sorting themselves out. Back then when he made those comments, Jordy Nelson and Ty Montgomery were on the physically unable to perform list (Nelson remains on PUP list, although Montgomery was activated last week). And Jared Abbrederis still seemed like a bit of a long shot, considering he had failed to make the roster coming out of camp in either of his first two seasons. It was entirely possible Nelson and/or Montgomery wouldn’t be ready for Week 1 and Abbrederis wouldn’t flash like he has in the first three weeks of camp.

Plus, McCarthy knows injuries often help sort out position battles.

That might be the case now that Jeff Janis is out indefinitely with a fractured hand.

Janis may have been on the bubble anyway after a slow start to training camp. He failed to take advantage of all the reps he took with Nelson and Montgomery out all offseason and into the start of training camp.

The momentum that he seemingly had coming off the playoff game at Arizona -- where he caught seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns -- never carried over. Abbrederis, Davante Adams and even rookie Trevor Davis made far more plays in practice than Janis did.

And don’t blame quarterback Aaron Rodgers; he gave Janis ample opportunities, yet too many times they failed to connect, whether it was Janis’ fault or not.

“Just trying to make plays when they come your way,” Janis said last week. “Got to take those opportunities when you can. Once the preseason starts here, I’ll be able to go against someone other than our DBs and hopefully make some more plays.”

He never got that chance, thanks to his hand injury. If it’s anything like the broken hand long-snapper Jesse Schmitt sustained in practice last week, it’s likely a 4-6 week injury. That would make it almost impossible for Janis to be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener at Jacksonville.

Perhaps the Packers would still carry Janis on the roster even if he couldn’t play early in the season, but injured reserve could be a possibility. The new rule this year allows teams to bring back one player off the IR list without designating who that would be until he’s activated. Previously, teams had to decided immediately whether to use their return designation on a player.

Still, there was one area where Janis carved out a role: on special teams. In his second seasons as coordinator, Ron Zook said he was counting on Janis to be one of his core players.

“The more experience he gets, the better he gets. And I think not only has he become a heck of a special teams player, but I think it helps him as a receiver as well,” Zook said last week. “The more he does it, the better he’s going to get. Just keep repping. I know in the games, he really came on and did a heck of a job for us last year. I expect the same thing out of him this year.”