New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees participated in players-only workouts during this summer's NFL lockout, while Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers did not. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers completed 14 of 15 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter, sending the Packers on their way to a wild, 42-34 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
“It was a good start for us,” said Rodgers. “I was going to ask myself, what would have happened if we had had offseason workouts? I mean, could we have started any faster and scored more points tonight?”
Rodgers was obviously bothered by offseason criticism, lobbed primarily by national media outlets, questioning the Packers’ decision not to hold players-only practices during the NFL lockout.
Those same critics pointed repeatedly to how Drew Brees and the Saints conducted six weeks worth of workouts this summer.
In some circles, the season opener between the Packers and Saints was a litmus test for which team took the correct approach.
For what it’s worth, Rodgers produced better stats than Brees, and his performance early in the game set the tone by forcing the Saints to play catch-up the entire night.
It was a silly notion to think that summer practices in shorts and T-shirts would make a difference during the regular season, and Rodgers and the Packers offense crushed that theory once and for all.
But Rodgers wasn’t willing to let his superior performance on the field make the final statement, because he mentioned the off-season workout issue in a sarcastic tone several times in his post-game press conference.
He had good reason to gloat. He knows the Packers offense inside and out, and he is on the same page with his receivers. There was no reason for Rodgers to go about his offseason routine any differently than in other years.
Receiver Greg Jennings, who caught seven passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, knew Rodgers was ready to go.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all out of him,” Jennings said of Rodgers’ torrid start against the Saints. “He’s very poised, and especially when the lights are turned on, he comes to play. The lights were definitely turned on bright, and we stepped up and came away with the win today.”
Jennings said he got together with Rodgers and cornerback Charles Woodson during a summer golf outing and talked about the benefit of organizing players-only practices. The consensus was such workouts weren’t necessary.
“We all said no, if guys were making sure they were doing what they need to do in their individual workouts, we were going to hold them to that,” said Jennings.
“Guys took advantage of that time. They came back in shape. Whatever the naysayers say, keep saying it, we don’t care. We don’t listen to it.”
But based on his post-game comments, Rodgers obviously listened to the criticism and seemed determined to prove the naysayers wrong.
He did that emphatically by completing 27 of 35 passes for 312 yards with a passer rating of 132.1. He was in a zone with his teammates.
Of the offseason, Rodgers said: “I was sticking to my usual routine of getting ready to play and my workouts and everybody else was as well. I don’t think anybody was worried about it.”
Rodgers said he was surprised that the topic persisted during the week leading up to the opener, especially after the team conducted more than a month’s worth of training camp and preseason workouts.
“That stuff does not have a major impact on the game,” he said of the players-only practices during the summer. “For chemistry purposes, maybe. Getting rookies up to speed, I wasn’t worried about our guys. I think we showed tonight that, offensively when you score 35 points, I think we’re all where we need to be.”
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