Packers photo 1-12

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey defends a pass intended for Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins during a game this month.

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GREEN BAY — If Davante Adams has said it once, he’s said it 1,000 times.

OK, maybe not 1,000. But the Green Bay Packers star wide receiver certainly has said it a lot since the first week of the season: It’s not about who’s covering him. It’s about … him.

Adams more than paid his proper respects Tuesday to Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who like Adams was selected as an Associated Press first-team All-Pro last week. Adams called Ramsey “super elite,” and said he’s “at the top of that list” of the best cornerbacks in the game “for sure.” He spoke of what a “high level” Ramsey has been playing at, about his “great confidence” and how he’s “made a lot of plays.” He even said he will “watch a little bit more tape” in preparation for Ramsey, something he may not have done for anyone else this year.

It was, by far, the most extensively Adams has talked about an opposing cornerback all season.

But …

That doesn’t mean Adams is significantly altering his approach this week in advance of Saturday’s NFC Divisional Playoff game between the sixth-seeded Rams and top-seeded Packers at Lambeau Field. And it’s not meant as any sort of slight toward Ramsey. It’s just Adams’ process.

“Just to keep it real, there’s certain times where you (reporters) may ask me about a guy, for me, I just keep it real (to) myself,” Adams said on a Zoom call after practice Tuesday. “Obviously I get on here, I’ve got to show certain people respect. And I’ll never disrespect anybody, because it’s the NFL. But I prepare the same way each week — regardless of who it is.

“Obviously with Jalen or somebody else who has earned that respect, the top-tier corners, you’re obviously going to put a little bit more into it. But I like to dictate what goes on out there, so I’m not really going to get too caught up in the film and start thinking too much and all that. I just go play my game.”

To appreciate how consistent Adams has been about this issue all season, here was his response before the Sept. 13 opener when he was asked about matching up with the Minnesota Vikings’ revamped secondary, which included two rookie starters:

“Obviously, I study my opponents every week. I’ve got a pretty good idea of the way all of them play,” Adams said then. “But at the end of the day, I’m not really concerned with that. I go out and run my routes, and I try to dictate and make them dictate to what I’m doing. I don’t like to go out and let them set the tone and worry about how this guy plays, if he’s going to press a certain way. Just play my game.

“The mentality I have running routes every game is just, make them chase me. I’m going to go out and play fast and do what I do and make them respond to that.”

Asked Tuesday why he takes the approach he does to matchups, Adams replied, “It’s just basically rooted in my confidence and the way that I play,” Adams said. “There’s certain guys who dictate or change the way they play based off who they’re playing. And that still may translate to success for them. But the way that I play is, I’m the driver’s seat. The best way ideally to stop a person from the driver’s seat is to get a jam on them (at the line of scrimmage), but it just so happens that’s literally my strongest tool in my bag is being able to get off the line and not get my timing disrupted. I just bank on me playing faster and being a little bit more technical than whoever it is I’m playing.”

What the Rams’ approach will be with Adams is unclear. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said defensive coordinator Brandon Staley has played a lot of Cover-2 in recent weeks, so whether Ramsey will follow Adams everywhere he goes on every snap is hard to predict. And as great as Ramsey is, it’s hard to imagine the Rams not giving him help against Adams, who finished the regular season with 115 catches for 1,374 yards and an NFL-high 18 touchdown receptions.

“It’s different,” Rodgers said before launching into an analogy about how teams tried to defend legendary NBA star Michael Jordan. (Rodgers grew up a huge Jordan fan, and Adams is a Jordan brand ambassador.) “It’s not like MJ’s coming to town and somebody’s got him one-on-one all game and he’s going to try to drop 50 on him.

“The Rams have a dynamic, dynamic player in Jalen, but they have been playing a lot more two-shell (defenses), so I don’t know how much mano-a-mano is going to be out there. I’m sure there’s going to be some opportunities, and (Ramsey) is super-talented. But we’re going to have to go out and execute.”

According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, Ramsey allowed only 32 completions and three touchdown passes on 64 targets this season with one interception. For comparison, Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander, who was on the All-Pro second team, allowed 35 completions on 69 targets with one interception.

“I think you guys have seen the versatility that Jalen possesses, where it’s not exclusive to just a great corner that can play ‘star’ coverage, that has ball skills, can play physical, can do all those things,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He can bump inside, he can set edges on your (run) defense, he can blitz.”

One way the Packers have countered opposing defenses’ attempts to take Adams out of games has been to move him around formations, sending him in motion pre-snap and lining him up just about everywhere. While some corners don’t like to move inside to cover top-level receivers in the slot, Ramsey can certainly do that.

“They do a great job of moving Jalen all over the field,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “You never quite know what to expect from this defense, in terms of just all the different personnel groupings they can give you, the variations in coverages. So you’ve got to have all-purpose plays, plays that have answers for everything they can throw at you.”

Adams faced Ramsey in the 2016 regular-season opener at Jacksonville, when Ramsey was the Jaguars’ rookie first-round pick. But Ramsey played mostly in the slot that game, matching up with Randall Cobb while Adams lined up outside against Davon House and Prince Amukamara. But the two did see each other in the Pro Bowl a couple of years ago.

“We actually got together more in the Pro Bowl than probably what we did in that 2016 game,” Adams said. “And we know how competitive the Pro Bowl is.”

Veldheer on field

The Packers officially added veteran offensive tackle Jared Veldheer to the active roster, giving him an opportunity to be the first player to compete in playoff games for different teams on back-to-back weekends.

Green Bay placed rookie guard Simon Stepaniak on injured reserve to make room for Veldheer, who was signed as insurance behind Wagner and Billy Turner with five-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, who is out for the remainder of the season after injuring his knee during a Dec. 31 practice.

The 33-year-old Veldheer was the Indianapolis Colts' starting left tackle for their final two games, including a 27-24 AFC first-round playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills last weekend.

Because the Colts merely elevated him from the practice squad for game day and didn't officially sign him to their 53-man roster, the Packers were able to sign him this week. The Packers announced the signing Tuesday and made room for him by placing guard Simon Stepaniak on injured reserve.

Veldheer joined the Packers late last season and was their starting right tackle for a divisional playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks when an illness left Bryan Bulaga unable to play in that game.

"I think we've got to kind of just wait and see, how much recall he has last year," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Tuesday. "What's interesting is that he just played in a game this weekend with a totally different offense. We'll try to get him acclimated and welcome him back as quickly as possible. But as far as what the expectations are, I think that remains to be seen."

Green Bay replaced Bakhtiari for its regular-season finale by moving right tackle Billy Turner over to left tackle and starting Rick Wagner at right tackle. The rest of the line included Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins, All-Pro center Corey Linsley and right guard Lucas Patrick.

The Packers used that same starting five when Bakhtiari missed three games with broken ribs earlier this season. Wagner was battling a knee injury toward the end of the regular season, though he continued to play. The Packers' injury report says Wagner was a limited practice participant Tuesday.

"You can never have enough players, and Jared's a guy we definitely hold in high regard," LaFleur said. "So it definitely adds depth to that room, which you can't have enough of."

Extra points

The Packers had only seven players on their injury report, and only one — defensive lineman Kingsley Keke, who is coming back from a concussion — failed to participate in practice. Veteran right tackle Rick Wagner (knee) practiced on a limited basis, an encouraging sign for his availability for Saturday. … Packers team president/CEO Mark Murphy said the roughly 6,500 tickets offered for sale to Saturday’s game to season ticketholders sold out in 27 minutes Tuesday and that he’s expecting between 8,000 and 9,000 fans at the game, including tickets for players, coaches, team employees and their families, frontline healthcare workers and first responders, and the 300-ticket allotment for the Rams. “It’s not going to be like 82,000 and a packed house,” Murphy said. “But I do think this will be very positive for our team to have upwards of 8,000 fans.” … Rodgers revealed Tuesday that he’ll be one of the guest hosts of “Jeopardy!” during the offseason in the wake of Alex Trebek’s death. A former winner on Celebrity Jeopardy!, Rodgers grew up a huge fan of the show and remains a daily viewer to this day. “I’m really excited about it,” Rodgers said. “We’ve been talking about it for a little bit. I think I may have jumped the gun a little bit, so I apologize to Jeopardy if they wanted to announce it.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


[Correction: Jalen Ramsey's name was spelled incorrectly in the headline in an earlier version of this story.]


Photos: Packers' 2020 season so far in pictures

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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