Jahri Evans on Aaron Rodgers interception: 'It was a little weird'
GREEN BAY – This was Jahri Evans’ first drive with the Green Bay Packers. The first regular-season snaps he’d taken with a new team in his 12-year career. And it was going well.
The Packers were marching. Aaron Rodgers found Randall Cobb open in the middle of the field, turning a third-and-2 into a 29-yard gain. Now they were in field-goal range. A game-opening touchdown seemed inevitable. Evans set to pass protect, but the defensive tackle in front of him didn’t rush.
Then something downright funky happened.
“The next thing I know,” Evans said, “I was like, ‘Oh, shoot. The ball is here.’”
The Packers right guard had a front-row seat to Rodgers’ first interception of 2017. Evans was blocking defensive tackle Nazair Jones, but the Seattle Seahawks rookie played back. As Packers tight end Lance Kendricks curled open in the middle of the field, Evans’ block slightly disengaged.
That’s when Jones interrupted Rodgers’ pass to Kendricks and took off the other way.
“I wish I could’ve just stayed on him,” Evans said one day later. “Stay connected to him a little bit more, so we didn’t have a lot of spacing between us.”
Rodgers’ interception unfolded almost like a freak accident. The quarterback who sees everything on the field said he did not notice Jones before releasing the football. The guard who played the initial 169 games of his career with the New Orleans Saints could do little to prevent it.
The turnover ended a stretch of 251 regular-season passes without an interception, the longest streak in Rodgers’ career. Since he became the Packers' starting quarterback in 2008, it was the third time Rodgers threw his first interception before his first touchdown pass in a season.
If you believe in omens, the other two times came in 2010, when the Packers won the Super Bowl, and his MVP season of 2014. Not that there’s any correlation.
As soon as Jones intercepted the pass, Rodgers took off after him.
“I had visions of Don Beebe and Leon Lett in my mind,” said Rodgers, referring to the infamous Super Bowl XXVII play in which the Bills receiver stripped the Cowboys defensive lineman of the ball just as Lett was about to score a touchdown after a fumble recovery. “I was gaining on him a little bit, I feel like. The film might not show that, but he’s pretty fast.”
Jones ran a 5.11-second 40 at the NFL scouting combine, for the record.
If Rodgers could laugh off the interception, it’s because the play could’ve been much worse. As he chased Jones, Rodgers was shoved in the back by Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril. It was light contact, but enough to draw a penalty.
The Packers were fortunate the penalty was called. Rodgers, 33, did not catch the 304-pound rookie. It would have been only the second pick-six of Rodgers' career. He has not had an interception returned for a touchdown since a Nov. 8, 2009, game at Tampa Bay.
“I was just glad it wasn’t a pick-six,” Rodgers said. “I think I’ve got a pretty good streak going right now, and it would have been rough to give up a pick-six to a lineman who outran me over a 60-yard path. Especially because I feel like I’ve been working on my conditioning and my running.”
Not to mention, it would have been an awkward introduction to Evans’ time blocking for his MVP quarterback.
“I’ve had tipped balls for interceptions and stuff like that, but that one was pretty ...” Evans said, his voice trailing off. “To be so early in the game, it was pretty – it was a little weird. I’m glad we survived it.”