GREEN BAY – Quarterback Aaron Rodgers glanced at his new tight end before the snap and knew where he was going to throw the ball.
He just had to find out whether his target would be there.
Martellus Bennett, right?
Rodgers took the shotgun snap and fired the ball over the middle to the other free agent tight end the Green Bay Packers signed in the offseason.
In stride, Lance Kendricks snatched the ball out of the air and took off down the field. When the play was over, Rodgers pointed his finger at Kendricks, acknowledging the unspoken communication that resulted in the big play.
“I knew I had to get inside,” Kendricks said of maneuvering past the linebacker covering him. “He (Rodgers) probably couldn’t see me. It looked like he just dumped it over the top.
“I kind of looked at him like, ‘If I can get in there, I’m going to try to catch it.’ So I stuck it. It’s been a long time since I’ve had something like that. For me, it’s been good.”
Kendricks may have not come to the Packers with the same fanfare as Bennett, but he quickly has become someone the quarterbacks have learned to trust.
In the first padded practice Saturday, Kendricks was a frequent target of both Rodgers and backup Brett Hundley. He caught some, dropped one and was covered on a couple of others, but the point was he kept catching the quarterback’s eye.
“Kendricks is going to be a good target,” Hundley said. “He’s a good route runner. He’s good with the ball. He’s going to be a big target for us.”
Kendricks spent six years with the St. Louis Rams playing with substandard quarterbacks, so playing with Rodgers has opened up possibilities he couldn’t even think about before.
When he could, Kendricks followed his former Rams teammate, Jared Cook, during his only season with the Packers last season. After recovering from an ankle injury, Cook began to blossom in the offense and Kendricks noticed it.
“I could tell he had a better, I don’t know if it was confidence, (but) he was more uplifted,” Kendricks said. “I could tell he was out there with more of a passion this (past) year than last year (’15) or the year before (’14). I could tell it definitely affected him being (here).”
And so did it affect Kendricks’ decision to sign with the Packers?
“Yeah, 100 percent. Definitely,” he said.
Kendricks, a Milwaukee native and former Wisconsin Badger, knows Bennett will be the featured tight end this season. But coach Mike McCarthy has talked a lot about incorporating tight ends this season and between him, Bennett and Richard Rodgers, Kendricks is the most versatile.
He’s just trying to prove it.
“Lance is, boy, he’s all business,” McCarthy said. “He’s a real pro. He’s got excellent work ethic. You know, anytime you have a player come from another program, you’re always interested (in that).”
So far, the Packers like what they see.