Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy described the weather condition in his team's preseason opener Saturday evening against the Tennessee Titans as "outstanding."
McCarthy firmly believes the adversity his young players faced in their first exhibition game will serve as a learning experience, knowing the game of football is often played in less-than-ideal climates and environments.
"We knew ball security was going to be a challenge," said McCarthy. "We probably didn't do quite as good as we would have liked there, obviously with the number of times we had the ball on the ground and the number of drops."
All told, the Packers muffed four special teams return attempts on the night, two of the coming from second round draft choice Davante Adams.
It was perhaps surprising to see Adams dropping back to return punts in Nashville. During his time in college, he had a grand total of two punt returns at Fresno State.
Even during the first two weeks of traininig camp, Adams was not regularly part of the punt return rotation taking repetitions during practice. Most of those went to Micah Hyde, Randall Cobb, Tramon Williams, Kevin Dorsey and the now-injured Jared Abbrederis.
"It's just our thinking," said McCarthy. "Once again, you're trying to give as many players as many opportunities as possible. You never go into any season with just one person at a position. You can never be deep enough."
So backwards Adams drifted on fourth downs during the first quarter Saturday evening with the first-string punt return unit in monsoon-like conditions, rain pouring from the sky.
After the Packers defense forced a three-and-out on the Titans' first drive of the game, Adams' initial opportunity at a punt return was dropped, although he recovered in time to take the ball eight yards upfield.
On Adams' second chance, he wasn't as lucky. Backed up to the 10-yard line, the rookie failed to cradle the football and the Titans recovered, gaining possession of the football in the red zone.
The Titans capitalized on the mistake, scoring a 13-yard touchdown on a run by Shonn Greene just one play later to pull within 7-6 of the Packers; the extra point missed.
Perhaps Adams and the coaching staff didn't care about the consequences in a preseason game. Maybe the coaches were more interested in seeing how their talented draft pick would fare in unfavorable conditions.
Considering the circumstances, however, a combination of the weather and being backed up deep in his own territory, perhaps Adams' best course of action would have been to simply allow the ball to roll. Maybe it would reach the end zone for a touchback, but at minimum, at least the team doesn't suffer a turnover.
"Obviously, they understand," said Adams of the coaches. "They see the conditions, and obviously they're not going to be excited if the ball is on the ground regardless. But they're not naïve to the fact that it's the hardest rain in the world going on. You've just got to do the best you can with it and come up with those."
To his credit, Adams performed admirably on offense, receiving playing time primarily with the second-string offense.
Adams caught two passes, one from Matt Flynn for nine yards and another from Scott Tolzien for 13 yards and a first down as the offense was trying to move the ball down the field in a two-minute situation at the end of the first half.
While still a work in progress on special teams, Adams can still feel good about his play at wide receiver, where he's expected to make his biggest contributions.
Up next is the Packers' second preseason game on Saturday against the St. Louis Rams, and likely the opportunity to work with Aaron Rodgers in a game for the first time, after the veteran quarterback sat out of the Titans game as a precaution.
"I came in at a good spot, and I felt good going into it," said Adams. "It started raining, and you started thinking, 'Okay, we got to make sure we take care of what we can.' And it gets pretty hard to throw the rock when you get that much rain.
"I think we did a pretty good job with it. Obviously it didn't end up how we wanted it to end. Even with it being the preseason, we've got a lot of competitors on this team that don't want to lose regardless. Just going to build on it and come back ready for St. Louis."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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