Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws a pass during training camp practice Wednesday at Ray Nitschke Field. / Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media
Training camp can become a grind during the dog days of August, but not for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who by all appearances is having the time of his life.
“I’m having a blast, I really am,” said Rodgers following Wednesday’s 2½-hour practice in full pads.
There was Rodgers lining up at middle linebacker with a makeshift defense during a walk-through period, helping the young offensive linemen with their play calls. Then he was conferring with recently signed quarterback Vince Young about footwork during a dropback drill. Later, after completing a pass to Alex Gillett during a red-zone period, Rodgers made his way downfield to help push the pile of defenders surrounding the rookie receiver into the end zone.
“Today I took (only) one rep in almost every period,” Rodgers said. “I need to get a sweat going. I need to stay moving around, so that’s a way for me to move around, and have fun with it.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy is limiting Rodgers’ snap counts this year in an effort to save some wear and tear on his body. So Rodgers is finding other ways to keep busy on the practice field.
“I’d rather be out there moving around doing something,” Rodgers said. “It’s fun for me. I’m the pseudo assistant coach out there.”
Getting to play on defense during walk-throughs takes Rodgers back to his midget football days. In eighth grade he played left cornerback for the Chico (Calif.) Jaguars and admits he wasn’t very good. “I had two passes defensed in three games and a bunch of missed tackles and zero interceptions,” he said.
Five games into that eighth-grade season, he got to play quarterback and has never looked back. McCarthy no doubt is thankful for that.
“He’s in a good place,” McCarthy said of Rodgers. “I really like the camp he’s having.
“I think his timing and his pinpoint passes came a lot earlier in this camp than past camps. I thought he established his rhythm with some of the newer players a little earlier than in the past. I think the rep count for the first time in his career has really helped him, so I think he’s been very consistent throwing the football. The management of the offense is clearly a strength of his and that’s no different this year.”
Rodgers has noticed a difference with the decreased workload during team drills.
“It’s been a lot lighter, and I’ve appreciated it,” Rodgers said. “Last year there were times where we took 60 out of 70 snaps in a practice, and that’s tough for anybody, whether you’re in year one or year eight.”
McCarthy, offensive coordinator Tom Clements and quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo devised a plan to ensure Rodgers would stay sharp and fresh.
“They’ve done a good job,” Rodgers said, “... putting their heads together and taking off some of the load on my arm, so my arm’s been able to stay very fresh. My legs have felt really good.”
Physically, Rodgers estimated it’s been five years since he was in such good shape. Mentally, he couldn’t ask for a better situation for a nine-year veteran.
“I love football so I want to make sure I’m putting my best foot forward for these guys and lead them in the right way,” he said.
Rodgers said he’s excited about the Packers’ increased commitment to the running game, including the drafting of Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin.
“It’s probably the best running group we’ve had in my nine years as a whole,” Rodgers said. “That could mean the (passing) numbers might go down a little bit, but the most important thing, as we stress to the guys on offense, is about winning and playing well. And if we can have a balanced attack this year I think that means sustained, consistent play, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
McCarthy couldn’t ask for a better attitude from Rodgers.
“His goal is to not only play the quarterback position at a high level,” McCarthy said, “but to make the players around him better and that’s what good quarterbacks do and that’s what he’s doing.”
— mvandermause@greenbay pressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.