GREEN BAY - He hasn’t played a snap, but Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had just one word to describe what he needs to see from himself in the preseason to know he’s ready for games to count.
“Nothing,” he said.
The Packers quarterback will make his preseason debut Friday when the Packers travel to play the San Francisco 49ers. Rodgers said he doesn’t know how much he’ll play — those decisions will be made Wednesday — but he expects it to be his only appearance in the preseason.
It has been a lighter training camp workload for Rodgers than in previous years. He was granted extended rest over the Hall of Fame weekend, a healthy scratch from at least three practices. In all, he went six days between practices.
Earlier in camp, Rodgers said he already felt prepared to play the Packers' opener Sept. 11 in Jacksonville. Conditioning, Rodgers said, will be the most important factor for him playing his first game in Florida’s heat.
“I’ve been doing some extra (conditioning) on the side to make sure I’m ready,” Rodgers said, “because I haven’t been playing in the games. If you play in the games in the preseason — the first two — I wouldn’t play a whole lot anyway. Actually, the stuff I’m doing on game day is probably more exertion than I would be doing on the field.
“I’ve just got to be ready to go four quarters. I’m confident that with the work I’ve put in, in the offseason and the work this past month in camp, I’ll be ready to go once the season starts.”
The Packers’ preseason plan with Rodgers has been designed to preserve him. He should have plenty of seasons left in his prime, but turns 33 in December.
A big part of preserving Rodgers in the preseason — perhaps the biggest factor in holding him out of the first two exhibitions — is avoiding injury risk. Yet, quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt said it’s good for a quarterback to get live snaps before the regular season.
“As an ex-player,” Van Pelt said, “I think, yeah, you do want to take some hits just to get that, ‘OK, it’s over with, I remember what that’s like.’ But as a coach, no, I don’t want him to get hit. But that’s part of the game. He’s been hit before, he’ll be hit again.”
Without Rodgers on the field, the Packers have been unable to evaluate their starting offense with its two-time MVP quarterback. Given a quarterback’s importance — he affects each of his teammates on the field — it could be valuable for the first-team offense to operate with Rodgers before heading to Jacksonville.
But Rodgers didn’t budge when asked if the offense needs him on the field to be ready for Week 1.
“I don’t think so,” Rodgers said. “… It will be good to feel the tempo out there if we get some stuff in the no-huddle that we’re used to. It’s a little different tempo when I’m in there, obviously, because I’ve been in this offense for a long time. I’ll set the tempo with my own pace and push the guys, and that will help. But we do it in practice.
“The tempo we practice at is so high. That’s where we get our conditioning in. We have to keep that going, and we will, into next week as a majority of the starters will take the look-team reps. We’ll treat that at a high pace to get our conditioning going, and we’ll do extra stuff and we’ll be ready to go when the season starts.”