The 2021 season came to an abrupt ending for the Green Bay Packers, especially for Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The fourth-year wide receiver watched from the sideline as his team was eliminated from the divisional round by the San Francisco 49ers. Needless to say, the final year of his rookie contract in Green Bay did not go as planned.
“It was the worst year of my life from a football standpoint,” Valdes-Scantling told Packers Wire this week.
The Packers’ speedy deep threat spent more time on the injury report than he ever had in his career. After not missing a game his first three seasons, he missed five games this year with a hamstring injury.
Valdes-Scantling battled back from that injury and had his best performance of the year in his second game back. Against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11, he recorded a team-high 123 receiving yards and also had the tying touchdown with just over two minutes remaining.
The Packers lost the game to their division rival via a last-second field goal, but the good news was they had one of their most important offensive pieces back in the fold. During the last half of the season, the Packers went on a run in which they scored at least 30 points over a five-game stretch.
Then came the season finale against the Detroit Lions – a meaningless game for Green Bay after they clinched the top seed in the NFC the week before. However, to avoid any sort of rust in the playoffs, the starters would play the first half. That was enough time for Valdes-Scantling to suffer his second significant injury of the year when he aggravated his back in the second quarter.
“We had a bye week, so we didn’t want to have two weeks off without playing football,” Valdes-Scantling stated. “We were all excited to play, it was just unfortunate timing with the injury.”
The injury to his back kept Valdes-Scantling out of the postseason matchup against the 49ers. He watched the offense struggle to score in a 13-10 defeat, knowing he could have made a difference had he been healthy.
“Obviously, I’m well respected in the NFL for my big-play ability, and I can do other things as well,” Valdes-Scantling said. “But when you’re missing one of the best in the business at catching the ball down the field, defenses can play you differently.”
San Francisco’s defense played the Packers differently than earlier in the regular season. Wide receiver Davante Adams saw a lot more double teams without the team’s potent deep threat attracting attention from the safety.
According to Valdes-Scantling, he did everything he could get back for the playoffs but did not want to take a chance with a back injury that could lead to more serious problems down the road.
“My health is always going to be more important than football,” he said.
Fortunately, for all the bad moments Valdes-Scantling experienced last season, there were some positive takeaways as well. He was rejoined by a friend and mentor, Randall Cobb, who he hadn’t played with since his rookie season.
During those two years he spent away from the team that drafted him, Cobb spent time suiting up for the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans. Cobb did not think he would ever return to the place he once called home and missed dearly. That changed when he was brought back in a trade at the request of his best friend, Aaron Rodgers. Upon returning, Cobb reminded Valdes-Scantling of how good he has it.
“He said to be grateful for how Green Bay operates and to be grateful for this room because every receiver room isn’t like this. Not everyone takes the same level of accountability. He’s been in other places where it’s not like that.”
That, of course, brings us to the offseason, where Valdes-Scantling will spend his time at home in Tampa Bay, Florida. His back feels fine, and if the Packers were playing in the Super Bowl, he feels like he would have been ready. Unfortunately, as Valdes-Scantling put it, “we’ll never know.”
Speaking of the unknown, there is a lot of uncertainty in Valdes-Scantling’s future. The Packers have told him they want him back in 2022, but they will have to perform financial gymnastics to make it happen. Valdes-Scantling hopes to return and is not ready to face the harsh reality that he may have played his last down in Green Bay.
“It really hasn’t hit me,” Valdes-Scantling said. “I’m just going to enjoy my offseason, and whenever that time comes, that time comes, whether it’s a new deal here or somewhere else.”
Valdes-Scantling’s decision won’t be contingent on Rodgers, either. Between now and the start of free agency, Rodgers intends to decide on extending his career or retirement. The Packers have stated that they want him back in 2022. However, if Rodgers does want to play elsewhere, that would not impact Valdes-Scantling’s desire to remain a Packer.
Over the last two years, Valdes-Scantling has watched Jordan Love grow and believes he could be a starting NFL quarterback. Valdes-Scantling did not play in Love’s first and only start against the Kansas City Chiefs, but that was not enough to diminish his confidence in the young quarterback.
“He’s a talented kid, which is why they drafted him in the first round,” he said. “Obviously, he’s had only had one real game experience, but if Aaron decides to step away and retire, I think he (Love) will be just fine.”
As Valdes-Scantling prepares to enter his first offseason as a free agent, his regiment won’t change much – only that he will be fueled by Six Star Pro Nutrition, the company that granted us the interview. However, before the possible end of Valdes-Scantling’s time with the Packers, we would have been remiss not to ask what he would miss most about playing in Green Bay.
“The fans,” Valdes-Scantling said with absolute certainty. “They are one of a kind sitting up there in the frozen tundra and still cheering every second of the game. You can’t replace those fans no matter where you go.”