GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Packers put Allen Lazard on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday, meaning the team could be without its top three wide receivers heading into Thursday’s game against the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals.
The news about Lazard, who was added to the list as a close contact, comes one day after leading receiver Davante Adams landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Lazard by all indications is not vaccinated and will have to quarantine for five days, meaning he’ll miss Thursday’s game.
Unless Marquez Valdes-Scantling can come off injured reserve — he’s missed the last four games with a hamstring injury, but there’s hope he can return this week — the Packers could be without their top three wideouts vs. Arizona.
“There’s a little bit of a shock factor for sure,” Aaron Rodgers said about learning of Adams’ test. “But we dealt with it last year. We’re maybe slightly more healthy than some of the other teams as far as not having as many cases. But there have been cases here and we’ve dealt with them.”
Veteran Randall Cobb, who returned to the Packers this season after a year in Dallas and a year in Houston, could be Rodgers’ primary target against the Cardinals. Running back Aaron Jones is second on the team with 26 receptions.
The Packers did a little bit of good news in that receiver Malik Taylor, who has been on the COVID list since Oct. 15, was activated Tuesday. And Valdes-Scantling, according to coach Matt LaFleur, is “getting better and better” and “running every day.”
“He’s working hard to be back out there, and it’s just going to be a matter of where he is on game day,” LaFleur said.
The only way that Adams would be able to play in Thursday’s game is if he’s asymptomatic and has two negative tests 24 hours apart. He hasn’t been forced to follow protocols for unvaccinated players, an indication that he is vaccinated.
The Packers are scheduled to leave for Phoenix on Wednesday, and Adams could not travel with the team without two negative tests. He could conceivably travel on the day of the game, however, if that’s when he received the second negative test.
“I have talked to him,” Rodgers said of Adams. “He seems to be health-wise doing OK. Obviously, he’s disappointed.”
Rodgers, who had hoped it would be a false positive test for Adams, on Tuesday said he was not concerned about his own COVID status, although he did not elaborate. Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry is also in COVID-19 protocols, meaning defensive backs coach Jerry Gray will call the defensive plays Thursday night.
Meanwhile, the Packers have managed to win all six games that Adams has missed over the past two seasons — two last season and four in 2019.
Asked how they’ve gone 6-0 without him, LaFleur replied, “I think that’s a great testament to the other players we have on this football team, being able to go out and do their job at a high level and go out there and execute. Certainly we’re going to miss 17 — he does a lot for this football team, brings a lot of leadership, obviously his playmaking ability — but those are the circumstances that are dealt and our guys understand that the standards and expectations don’t change.”
Remarkably, Rodgers and the Packers have actually been more productive on offense without Adams for those six games than with him since the start of the 2019 season — 32.8 points per game with him; 25.9 per game without. Other statistics that are better without Adams in the lineup: Rodgers’ completion percentage (70% without compared to 66% with) and passing yards per game (311 vs. 247).
Rodgers has 17 touchdowns and one interception in those six games without Adams.
The Cardinals are acutely aware of Rodgers’ success without Adams on the field, and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph recited the Packers’ stats without Adams off the top of his head. Joseph pointed out that when quarterbacks like Rodgers don’t have their star receiver, the responsibility to carry an offense falls on them.
“Sometimes it helps them to play an even cleaner game,” Joseph said. “He’s not forced to force the ball to Adams. And when you have a guy like Adams who’s a volume pass catcher, you could kind of trap him into throwing the ball to Adams some. But without Adams, it’s gonna force Aaron to play a true game and that’s, sometimes, dangerous for us.
“But he’s played his best ball without Adams. And again, not having Adams is not good for them, but it’s gonna force Aaron to play a cleaner game. History shows you, he’s played good and so we’ll see how it works out [Thursday].”
Adams ranks third in the NFL with 744 receiving yards on 52 receptions, which is tied for second, but he has been kept relatively in check the last two weeks with 10 total catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
Still, Adams’ receptions this season are twice as many as Jones and 37 more than Lazard (15), which is the largest gap between No. 1 and No. 2 receivers on a team in the NFL.
It’s now on LaFleur, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and passing game coordinator Luke Getsy to somehow make a plan that works.
“We found out [about Adams] pretty early in the process, so certainly some of the stuff was already kind of planned for, but that’s just — you always have to have contingency plans, whether stuff happens in-game, where you have to pivot, and I think we have enough versatility within our offense to do that,” LaFleur said.
While Cobb wasn’t around for the six games without Adams in the lineup, it sounds like LaFleur and his staff may have mentioned the team’s record without Adams a time or two.
“Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard, we’ve heard,” Cobb said. “It’s 6-0.”
ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss contributed to this report.