GREEN BAY — As far as Aaron Rodgers, Tramon Williams and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are concerned, there’s really no question about it at this point: Jake Kumerow has proven he’s a legitimate NFL wide receiver, and he belongs on a roster — for them, preferably the Green Bay Packers’ roster.
“He’s one of our top receivers in the room,” Clinton-Dix said of Kumerow following Thursday night’s 51-34 preseason victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. “You see it. There’s no faking it in this game. It’s not (even) Aaron throwing him the ball. … He’s doing it with young quarterbacks. Imagine when he gets in there with ‘12’ what he has a chance to do.”
And it appears the former UW-Whitewater star’s ailing right shoulder won’t prevent him from taking advantage of that chance for very long.
A league source said Friday that Kumerow’s shoulder injury — a sprained SC joint — wasn’t as serious as feared.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the sternoclavicular (SC) joint is one of the four joints that complete the shoulder. The joint is located where the clavicle (collarbone) meets the sternum (breastbone) at the base of the neck. Although not common, injuries to the SC joint typically result from motor vehicle accidents or participation in collision sports. While these injuries can be painful, most are relatively minor and will heal well without surgery.
Kumerow was injured at the end of his 82-yard touchdown catch-and-run against the Steelers, when he dived across the goal line with Steelers defenders Nat Behre and Matthew Thomas closing on him. He said after the game that he landed awkwardly on his shoulder — although the adrenaline pumping through him masked the pain initially — and that he realized when he got to the sideline that he might’ve hurt himself.
“I didn’t even feel it. I was pumped up. I was ready to go celebrate with the boys,” Kumerow said. “Once I got to the sideline, I was like, ‘Argh, (it’s) a little sore.’”
Kumerow also said after the game that he merely suffered a shoulder “stinger” and that he was fine. But when TV cameras caught Dr. Pat McKenzie doing a variety of tests on Kumerow, it was clear that the receiver was in some pain.
Whether the injury forces Kumerow to miss Friday’s preseason game at Oakland is unclear. The challenge for general manager Brian Gutekunst going forward is that the team spent three draft picks on wide receivers — fourth-round pick J’Mon Moore, fifth-round pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling and sixth-round pick Equanimeous St. Brown — but Kumerow has far outperformed them all. All three have been inconsistent and Moore had another egregious drop against the Steelers after dropping what should have been a 65-yard touchdown a week earlier against Tennessee.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean Kumerow’s spot on the roster is secure just yet, Packers coach Mike McCarthy cautioned Friday.
“I understand everybody has opinions internally and externally. But that’s why it’s important to take in all the information, even if you do think that the final decision is cut-and-dried. If you don’t clearly go through the process, you open yourself up to potential mistakes,” McCarthy said.
“At the end of the day, the decision-makers have to look at all of the information. And it’s obviously a lot more than opinion. It’s the video and all the variables that play into that — and we’ll do that for all of our players. You obviously want to get the 53-man roster right, and obviously you’ve got some guys that are fighting and scratching and making a case to be on that. But the other 10 (roster spots on the practice squad) are just as important, in my view.”
Despite spending two years on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad and part of last season on the New England Patriots’ and Packers’ practice squads, Kumerow has one year of practice squad eligibility left. That said, it’s hard to imagine him sneaking through waivers unclaimed after what he’s put on film. In two preseason games, he’s caught six passes for 190 yards and delivered two of the Packers’ biggest plays thus far — a 52-yard touchdown catch from Tim Boyle against Tennessee and his 82-yarder Thursday.
“Having big plays like that helps. It helps me feel like I’m accomplishing the goal of why I’m playing football — to play on Sundays,” Kumerow said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do still — (on) special teams, as well. I need to get in there a little more on special teams, try to get some reps (there) and just keep making catches and try to just keep getting open for the quarterbacks. There’s definitely a lot of work to get done.”
While true, Kumerow has clearly gotten the veterans’ attention — and not just with what he’s done in the games.
“He’s doing great. One of the talks of camp, in my opinion,” Williams said. “He’s been doing it all camp long. It’s not like he’s just showing up and having fluke games. He’s been doing it all camp long.
“To see a guy come in like that and work hard, you don’t know his name Day One but day after day after day, you’re like, ‘Oh man, this guy’s pretty good.’ So, you start taking notice of him and that’s what you want to see out of guys. And I think Aaron expressed how much that he’s appreciated the way the guy came in and worked. And that’s the ultimate compliment.”
Indeed it is.Rodgers has been a Kumerow fan since the beginning and has seen him in both practice — where Rodgers has repeatedly connected with him and seen Kumerow’s knack for getting open first-hand — and in games. On Thursday’s touchdown, the Packers were facing second-and-9 from their 18-yard line early in the third quarter when Kumerow caught a DeShone Kizer pass at the 28-yard line against cornerback Brian Allen, took off up the left sideline and then juked Berhe around the Packers’ 45-yard line before winning the footrace to the goal line.
“I’ve said it before: The practice reps are very important because there’s so many different types of defenses and coverages and pressures that we see in practice. And he’s made plays consistently throughout those sessions,” Rodgers said. “You never know how it’s going to turn out in the game, but last week he was very productive, had a touchdown. Tonight, he made a catch near the sidelines, turns it upfield, stays inbounds and gets a first down. Then comes back, runs a nice route, DeShone puts a great ball on him, he stays inbounds, and turns a 17-yard gain into an 80-yard touchdown.
“I’m very happy with him. I’m happy for him as well. He’s a great kid. From the first time he got here, it’s never been too big for him, and he continues to make plays and that’s how you make the squad, you ball out on game day and you do things on special teams when you’re a fringe guy and you give yourself an opportunity, not just for this squad, but for any team watching ‘16’ on film.”
McCarthy didn’t have an update on right guard Justin McCray (calf) or running back Jamaal Williams (ankle), each of whom left the game with injuries. “These guys are off (Saturday) and until we get in here Sunday, then we’ll have a more accurate report on where everybody is,” McCarthy said. Both McCray and Williams downplayed the seriousness of their injuries after the game. … Depending on Williams’ availability, the Packers could be very thin at running back against the Raiders. Aaron Jones (hamstring) returned to practice on Tuesday but then dropped out later in the session, and Devante Mays (hamstring) hasn’t practiced since Aug. 3. “We’re still working through (Williams’ injury) and hopefully D. Mays can come back. We’ll see where he is,” McCarthy said. … McCarthy downplayed the struggles of backup tackles Kyle Murphy and Jason Spriggs, saying the juggling on the line due to injuries has led to some of their issues. … McCarthy said he wasn’t worried about rookie punter JK Scott’s up-and-down night against the Steelers. “He’s very talented, he’s very consistent. I feel good about where he’s at and the progress he’s made,” McCarthy said. “I have no concerns.”