The Green Bay Packers won’t be taking any chances with first-round quarterback Jordan Love and his injured shoulder.
Prior to Thursday’s practice, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters that it was “probably unlikely” that Love would play in Saturday’s second preseason game after suffering a shoulder injury last weekend. If Love is ruled out, former Atlanta Falcons backup Kurt Benkert would get the start against the New York Jets for the 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff on Saturday.
Love was injured on a strip-sack late in the second quarter of his preseason debut last weekend, finishing the half but remaining on the sideline for the rest of the 26-7 loss. Before leaving the game, the 2020 first-round pick went 12-of-17 passing for 122 yards and put together the Packers’ lone touchdown drive behind a perfect 6-of-6 passing clip.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Love had an MRI on his throwing shoulder the morning after the game that came back “clean,” but the Packers have remained cautious with their prized backup quarterback and held him back in every practice this week — a situation that is far from ideal for a team that has been waiting more than 15 months to evaluate their premium draft pick.
“Yeah, if he ends up having to miss any time, it’ll be kind of a bummer,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Sunday in his press conference. “Last night, it was great to see him out there and finally get some reps. It wouldn’t be ideal, but at the same time, we’re pretty hopeful he can get back here quick.”
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How Detrimental is Love’s Preseason Absence?
The Packers have been talking about getting to see Love in his first preseason action since the end of the 2020 postseason. When the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all of the NFL’s exhibition games during his rookie season, the Packers were deprived of essential opportunities to evaluate their new first-round quarterback and, as a result, designated Love as the third-stringer behind Aaron Rodgers and Tim Boyle so he could spend his first year learning.
Year 2 was always going to be different, though — even before the drama with Rodgers opened up the possibility of Love having to step in as the starter for 2021. The departure of Boyle meant Love would, at a minimum, ascend to the primary backup job for his second year in the league, and while the preseason was shortened from four to three games, the Packers once again had live-game opportunities to assess Love’s capabilities.
So, what happens now that Love will miss one of those three evaluation periods? Well, that depends entirely on how long it takes Love to return to the fold.
Again, the Packers could simply be holding out Love as a precaution against re-injury. If so, then it wouldn’t be a stretch to think he could return for their preseason finale next weekend at Buffalo. But should Love’s shoulder keep him sidelined for the rest of the preseason, the Packers will have no choice but to head into the 2021 season with a shaky backup plan behind Rodgers.