In his NFL debut in September, Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams found himself lined up a handful of times across from Seattle Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
Adams waited for the chatter. And waited some more.
When the conversation didn’t come, the rookie decided to start one himself.
“He didn’t say anything,” Adams said of Sherman. “Actually, I said something to him about it. … I asked him where all the talking was. He said, ‘There’s nothing to talk about.’ I said, ‘All right, I guess so.’ ”
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Adams wasn’t necessarily looking for trash talk. He had spent some time hanging out with Sherman during a visit to Seattle before the 2014 draft, and then was surprised by the gameday silence.
The pair will likely to get a chance to engage again Sunday, when the Packers return to CenturyLink Field for the NFC Championship Game.
Adams repeated this week that he would be an active listener.
“I like to egg it on,” he said. “… Guys get to talking and then you make a play on them, it kind of shuts them down; because you can physically keep talking after that, but you can’t really have the same feeling behind it if you’re having a guy get some numbers on you while you’re trying to do all that talking.”
That’s pretty confident talk for a first-year player. But the Packers agree that their second-round pick out of Fresno State has been growing up fast.
In that first game back in Seattle, he might have talked to Sherman, but he didn’t do much else: no catches. But he ended his first regular season with 38 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns. He had a career-high seven catches in Week 8 at New Orleans and a career-high 121 yards five weeks later against New England.
After that, there was a lull: four catches over the final four weeks, stirring some Wisconsin conjecture that he might have sprinted into his rookie wall.
Adams denies that. But if there was a wall, he broke through it in his postseason debut Sunday with seven catches for a team-high 117 yards. Forty-six of those yards came on a catch-and-run, third-quarter touchdown that featured a stutter move that lost Dallas safety J.J. Wilcox along the way. The performance included the most receptions and receiving yards by a rookie in Packers playoff history — which is quite a history.
“I’m really proud of him,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He’s a great player; prepares every week the exact same. You don’t see a difference in his attitude, and that says a lot about the kind of guy he is and the kind of player he’s going to be for us.”
Adams’ score brought the Packers only to within one point of the Cowboys. About five minutes later, it was another rookie who recorded the decisive touchdown in what turned out to be a 26-21 win for Green Bay.
That came on a pass to tight end Richard Rodgers, a third-round pick from California. He had 20 receptions during his first regular season, before making his only playoff catch count against the Cowboys.
“You watch Richard Rodgers play in Week 1 and you watch him play against the Dallas Cowboys, you’re looking at a different player,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “No different with Davante Adams. Our younger players have really improved since then. I think we’ve improved as an offense.”
Seconding that thought was veteran receiver Jordy Nelson, who had carried Green Bay’s receiving load in that September opener at CenturyLink Field: targeted 11 times with a game-high nine catches.
“The more guys that can make plays the better it is,” Nelson said. “We’ve been used to that over a few years. This year has been a little bit different: a building process, especially with the young receivers and tight ends; especially to get them up to speed and get comfortable with Aaron and allow him to trust them and have that confidence in them. That will be big for us going into this game.”