GREEN BAY, Wis. — The new-era Green Bay Packers offense had the ball at the 29-yard line with 24 seconds left in their simulated two-minute drill Tuesday during organized team activities when Jordan Love made the sort of mistake Jordan Love can't make.
Rolling right with no timeouts, he throws across his body, into the middle of the end zone — and middle of the field — to who he hopes is Christian Watson but is instead safety Tarvarius Moore. End of the (simulated) game. Packers lose.
Watching it, you got the sense that Love regretted the throw immediately. Afterward he more or less admitted as much.
"That's a mortal sin — late and over the middle. That's exactly what I did," Love said in the locker room. "There is a time and a place depending on the coverage, things that are going on, if the DB falls. Given the circumstances, that was exactly a mortal sin right there. Late, over the middle, ball kind of floats [and] the DB has a chance to go get it."
Harbinger of things to come for the fourth-year quarterback in his first year at the helm? Hardly, in my opinion. Love knows this is the time to try things out and "push those boundaries." The more he tests that particular boundary, the more he'll likely realize that's not a place he wants to be.
Parachuting into one day of an offseason workout means a reporter can't take too much away from a quarterback trying out things. I went to Chiefs camp one day in 2018 when Patrick Mahomes couldn't stop throwing completions to the defense. He went on to win NFL MVP that year.
No one's going to get a real vibe for Love until the preseason, maybe as soon as the Packers have joint practices with the Bengals and Patriots. He needs real reps against a real defense before any prognostications on 2023 can be delivered. Throw whatever harmless inflated balls or styrofoam objects near his feet in private workouts, but that's not going to simulate some of the world's greatest athletes diving at his lower body.
That's what he got in 2021 when he was thrust into the starting role against the Chiefs on late notice due to COVID-19 issues. He went 19-of-34 for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a game the Green Bay defense kept close, but one where the Packers clearly had no answer for the Chiefs' all-out blitz.
That Love didn't fold — that that game didn't crush him — is part of the reason the Packers were confident enough giving him the reins. Plus how he was never gun-shy in Week 12 in Philadelphia last year. And how guys in the locker room seem to legitimately like him.
That's no shot at Love's predecessor, by the way. But if Jalen Hurts and Mahomes have the strongest gravitational pull of any player in any NFL locker room, the force of attraction between Love and a close object can't be much less.
What doesn't have much use right now, in my opinion, is reading too much into his performance at these OTAs. As we know, he's trying some things out. But the Packers are also without Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas (among plenty of other corners) during these workouts.
Perhaps that's even better for young Love. He's getting some wins in practice and building confidence. On Tuesday he and Romeo Doubs showed evidence of a budding connection a few times during the two-hour afternoon session, where his rapport with Christian Watson has been evident to those in the building.
One thing Love knows he must improve on is what he lovingly called "tight wobblers" on Tuesday. As Packers scribes astutely noted, Love doesn't throw the tightest spiral when he's on the move. That's not unique to Love, but the wobblers were spliced in intermittently throughout the day.
What was as noticeable as his wobblers, though, was Packers head coach Matt LaFleur protecting his young quarterback. In his post-practice meet with the media, LaFleur said he was "less concerned about the end result" and more concerned about the process of playing quarterback when it came to plays like the practice-ending interception, which he referred to as a "great learning experience."
Asked about the less-than-tight spirals, LaFleur invoked Peyton Manning when describing just how little he was concerned.
"It's about just being accurate. Throwing on time. Making the right decisions. Putting the ball in the right spot," LaFleur said. "And so, I've been encouraged — especially, I would say over the course of this last week, one of the things that we've kind of talked about in that room is just how important — it's really the process of playing quarterback."
The Packers are young when it comes to who's throwing the ball and who's catching it, and they don't seem to be in a hurry to add a veteran to either group. To get a veteran quarterback, the Packers would need someone who's familiar enough with the system, cheap enough for the payroll and comfortable enough with his role as the permanent understudy.
At receiver, the economics of the position don't lend itself to adding right now. After Baltimore signed Odell Beckham Jr. to a one-year deal worth up to $18 million, teams around the league cooled on adding veterans due to the increased salary demand. If a vet is what the Packers want in that room, they may be waiting until August to add.
There isn't a Super Bowl or bust mentality around the team, which is probably good for such a young offense. They can just go out there, play more freely and test the boundaries of their potential.