After all the controversy and hype surrounding Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the two-time reigning NFL MVP showed up at mandatory OTAs as promised.
Rodgers took part in drills with his teammates and later spoke to the media. Here are 10 things we learned from Rodgers during this week’s mandatory OTAs:
- He’s Going to Be a Packer For the Rest of His Career
What a difference a year makes. One year ago, we were unsure if Rodgers would return to the Packers for 2021 and when he did, we were still unsure of anything beyond that.
Now, that Rodgers has signed an extension with the team, he told reporters that he expects to finish his NFL career with the Packers.
Rodgers sees the value in a star player playing his entire career with one team and now that things are better between Rodgers and the Packers front office, that seems assured.
At OTAs, Rodgers was even seen smiling and laughing during a conversation with GM Brian Gutekunst.
- Rodgers Doesn’t Know How Much Longer He’ll Play
Rodgers was unsure how much longer he’d play and is taking things year-to-year.
“We’ll sit down after the season, hopefully after a championship and figure out what the next step is. I’ve never been one to want some sort of going-away season or anything like that,” Rodgers added. “Plus, I don’t think it’s fair to the mental state at the end of the season and thinking how you feel. If you say, ‘I’m for sure playing two more, three years,’ and then you have a magical season that ends with a championship and think that that might be the best way to ride off, I don’t want to commit to something. You say, ‘I’m only playing one more year,’ and you have a bitter taste in your mouth and still got the drive and the passion to play one or two more years, I just don’t want to get pigeonholed into it. So, I’m focused on this season.”
Rodgers will turn 39 in December so we don’t know how much more he’ll be playing. Right now, he’s taking things one season at a time, but says he’s fully committed to this season.
- Allen Lazard Has a Big Opportunity This Season
Rodgers discussed the absence of Allen Lazard at OTAs. He’s the only player who isn’t present but because he hasn’t signed his tender offer, he isn’t obligated to attend.
But Rodgers also acknowledged that Lazard has a big opportunity this season. “He’s been our dirty-work guy for most of his career here,” Rodgers said when asked about Lazard. Now he’s getting an opportunity to be a number one receiver, so I’m not worried about him at all stepping into that role. I’ve talked to him a lot. I know how he takes care of his body and I know he’ll be ready when he’s here.”
Lazard is the favorite to be the Packers top receiver at the start of the season and he’s coming off career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns. The big question Lazard must answer this season is whether he can still be productive without Adams opposite him. Rodgers seems confident the answer is yes.
- Rookie Receivers Need Time
Rodgers has a reputation for being slow to trust inexperienced receivers. He restated that belief in his own way when speaking to the media this week. “I like production over potential,” Rodgers said. “We have some production. We have a lot of potential, so we need to temper expectations and heighten the accountability. I think that’s the most important thing for those guys. There’s guys who’ve done some things in the league and there’s guys that haven’t and they’re going to get opportunities, so reasonable expectations for those guys and then high expectations and accountability for the entire room.”
Rodgers seems to acknowledge it will take time for the team’s young receivers to reach their potential and assume larger roles.
- Randall Cobb Will Mentor the Young Receivers
Rodgers discussed the development of the young receivers and how he doesn’t feel his absence at voluntary OTAs was important because the rookies needed to learn the playbook first and that veteran Randall Cobb will help them do that and adjust to life in the NFL.
“We’ve got my closest buddy on the team with those guys every single day, Randall Cobb, and he’s been here the entire time just about,” Rodgers said. “So, he’s passing along everything they need to know about playing with me and expectations and signals and unspoken communication and non-verbal stuff, and they just have to feel me once we get back for training camp and it gets real. There’ll be expectations for them, but reasonable expectations. We’re not going to expect those guys to be anything other than the best versions of themselves. Obviously, with how high we picked Christian, there’ll be expectations, but we just need him to be the best version of himself, and Romeo.”
How this reflects on Rodgers’ leadership style is another question but this is the plan right now to have Cobb help develop the young receivers.
- Mental Grind Toughest On Him
Rodgers discussed what will go into his decision to return next season and beyond and he explained at 38 that the mental grind is the toughest part for him.
“More just how I’m feeling mentally,” Rodgers explained. “The playing is easy. That’s the easy part. It’s the other part that’s a grind. You wear a lot of hats as a quarterback, and it’s more than just playing on Sundays. At some point, the grind gets to all of us, and every year it seems like a slightly bigger commitment to come up to being the guy again in another season. But it just comes down to where I’m at. Obviously, I want the team to be successful. Obviously, I don’t want to be a bum standing back there playing like crap and not able to move around, so if the talent goes, it’s a no-brainer. But it’s a little harder when you still can really play and the mental part is difficult.”
- Rodgers Knew Adams Was Unhappy
Rodgers admitted he knew Adams was unhappy in Green Bay and that he helped him go to the Raiders. “Look, I’m not going to stand in the way. I love him. It’s really friggin’ hard for sure, but when you love somebody and you care about somebody like that, ultimately you want them to be happy,” Rodgers said. “And he felt like, I think, he was going to be happier in Vegas with him and his family being close to the family and on the West Coast, and I wasn’t going to stand in the way of that and the team was going to do what was best in that situation and ultimately it was best to make a trade.”
- Split Time with Love
During OTAs, Rodgers was splitting time with Jordan Love on the field. This allowed Rodgers to get a feel for some of his new teammates during drills while still giving his young backup valuable reps with the first team.
- Rodgers Is Confident In His Offensive Line
The Packers lost Billy Turner and Lucas Patrick from last year’s offensive line and the duo will be missed. The team will also likely start the season without Elgton Jenkins.
Overall, however, Rodgers sounded confident. “I don’t worry about that group,” Rodgers said. “They’ve been coached so well over the years.”
He was also cautiously optimistic regarding the return of starting left tackle David Bakhtiari. “He’s been working hard. Hopefully, training camp, he’s a full go, good to go,” Rodgers said. “I know he’s working hard and itching to get back out there.”
- The Offense Will Change This Year
Rodgers expects that with Adams no longer on the roster, the offense will be “different” in 2022. “I think the way that we’ve played in [Adams’] absence in the last seven games or so over the last three years, it has been different,” Rodgers said. “Obviously Aaron Jones has had more opportunities I think in those games. Now that we have an incredibly complementary second back, we can get both those guys involved in the passing game. So, we’re obviously going to do some things a little different.”
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