Here’s how far away he was from making it: An extra reach with the ball, a fall forward, a favorable spot.
Those three actions might have been the difference between Adams’ 997-yard season and immortality.
Just don’t tell him that those 9 feet will define his 2016 season.
“Obviously, 1,000 sounds better than 997,” Adams said. “But at the end of the day it’s just to say you had a 1,000-yard season. It doesn’t change anything.”
In some ways, it changed everything.
Here was Adams after the Packers’ organized team activity Thursday talking about the best of his three NFL seasons. He had 75 catches, including 12 touchdowns, to go along with those 997 yards. He had two more touchdown catches in the postseason.
What a contrast it was from a year ago, when he stood in the same spot in the Packers’ locker room and faced a barrage of questions about a disappointing 2015. A step back that season washed away all the promise of his 2014 rookie year, when the second-round pick seemed poised to become one of Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets. Instead, an early season ankle injury nagged him throughout 2015 and led to a 50-catch, one-touchdown campaign that had some wondering if he would even finish out his rookie contract in Green Bay.
“I think he’d be the first to tell you that the injuries that he fought through in Year 2, he was definitely much healthier in Year 3,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “A complete understanding of all the positions, obviously an advancement in the route-running and the time-clock coordinating between him and Aaron Rodgers was definitely much better last year.
“Frankly, I thought we did a much better job creating opportunities for him last year not only as the No. 1 receiver but also as the No. 2 and No. 3 hole as far as formation and alignment. So increased opportunities, he cashed in on it. I thought Davante had a heck of a year last year.”
Speaking of cashing in, Adams will be a free agent after this season unless he and the Packers agree on a contract extension before next March. Another season like 2016 and he could be one of the most coveted receivers on the market.
Adams doesn’t want to hear that, not now anyway. He need only remember how much a contract weighed on teammate Randall Cobb's mind in 2014, when Adams was a rookie, to know how it can affect a season. Cobb started slowly and admitted he pressed because he was in a contract year.
“I’ve seen so many guys come into that way and lose focus and lose sight of what they’re actually playing for,” Adams said. “You play to get a ring, so I’m not out here thinking about the money. I’m just trying to play ball and do what I can to help this team out. All that stuff will take care of itself at the end of the year or whenever it does. We’ll let it happen then.”
A 1,000-yard season wouldn’t hurt his cause.
“I can’t predict numbers,” Adams said. “But as far as what my film will consistently look like, what I’m able to go out there and contribute to the team whether it’s having more respect on the field and taking away [defensive attention] from Marty [Bennett] open or Rich [Rodgers] or Jordy [Nelson] or Randall -- just being a bigger part of the offense. I can’t go out there and tell you that I’m going to have 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns, but I’m going to go out and try to do that.”
Adams has looked the part so far in OTAs. He said he returned to Green Bay leaner than he was last season thanks to experiments with his diet; he said he subscribes to a service called Plated that picks healthy recipes and sends the ingredients to be cooked in the recipient’s home.
It’s that kind of forward thinking -- and not obsessing over three important yards -- that has Adams motivated.
“I’ll put it this way: I would much rather have 1,000 yards than 997 but it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day,” he said. “It’s just a matter of saying I got 1,000 yards versus 900 and whatever because that’s what people look at it as: Nine hundred yards versus hitting the 1,000-yard mark. But it doesn’t put a damper on my season because I didn’t get it. At the end of the day, I would definitely rather have it, but I’ll live.”