GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas was “very scary” to wake up to Monday.
Rodgers said he saw the news on social media shortly after awakening at 6 a.m. Monday. His initial reaction, Rodgers said, was being “heartbroken” for the victims and families.
For Rodgers, the event became more personal than he could have expected.
“I have some ties and connections to Vegas,” he said, “and I had some friends who were at the venue. It’s unthinkable that this would continue to happen in our country. You obviously send your prayers and thoughts to the people who are affected.
“A friend of mine lost their best friend of 20 years.”
Rodgers did not specify which friend he was referencing, or the victim.
The Packers quarterback called for safeguards to make mass shootings less frequent.
“We’re going to have to make some changes in society,” Rodgers said, “hopefully quickly because there’s too many situations like this where we send our thoughts and prayers to these victims, and unfortunately it keeps happening.”
Quarter masters: The Packers put themselves in position to contend for a solid playoff seed in January, but coach Mike McCarthy knows the next four games are important if his team is to benefit from its solid start.
A treacherous second quarter of the season opens Sunday when the Packers (3-1) travel to the Dallas Cowboys (2-2). They will be on the road the following Sunday at division rival Minnesota (2-2), where they lost last season.
The Packers will host one of the game’s top quarterbacks in Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints (2-2) on Oct. 22 before closing October on a bye. They will return Nov. 6 to host the Detroit Lions (3-1), likely their primary competition for the NFC North title.
McCarthy said he’ll address the next four games’ importance to his players Thursday.
“If you look at the history of the second quarter of the season,” McCarthy said, “it hasn't been our best quarter of the season. I'll go through the specifics of that with the team.”
As a whole, the Packers have been no different in a season’s second quarter than the first four games. Through last season, the Packers have identical 29-15 records in the first and second quarters of the season since they hired McCarthy in 2006.
In recent years, that trend has changed.
The Packers’ 3-1 start this season is in line with their 4-0 start in 2015 and 3-1 start last fall. In the past two years, they’ve gone 4-4 in the season’s second quarter. Their .500 record has been a departure of the four years before it. The Packers were 14-2 in the season’s second quarter from 2011-14.
With a strong October, the Packers could find themselves in position for a premier playoff seed when the season’s second half begins.
“You get into Week 5 now,” McCarthy said, “you have data, you have comparables that you look at, and it's just all about pushing it forward and trying to grow. That's what we're focused on."
Elliott alert: McCarthy said the Packers are preparing to face Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday, regardless of the potential that Elliott's six-game suspension could take effect.
Elliott was suspended six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after a former girlfriend accused him of domestic violence. He played the season’s first four games while challenging his suspension in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The court said its ruling would come quickly after the NFL filed its response to Elliott, which happened Tuesday morning. As of late afternoon Wednesday, there was no ruling.
Elliott’s suspension would take effect immediately if the court ruled for the NFL.
“I don’t know where it’s at, frankly,” McCarthy said Wednesday morning. “I haven’t watched it. It doesn’t factor in. Whatever’s on video, that’s what we’re preparing for.”
What’s on video is Elliott’s 277 yards on 76 carries in four games, a slight dip from his remarkable rookie season. Elliott had 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016. He twice rushed for at least 125 yards against the Packers, though he didn’t score a touchdown in either game.
Elliott said Wednesday it has been difficult to stay focused with his off-field situation looming over him.
“Just keep my eyes on what’s important,” Elliott said. “That’s just being the best running back I can for this team, and just not letting it spill over into my work. And just making sure I’m focused, and these guys, these teammates I have, have been great just helping me be focused on this game and being focused on being a running back I need to be for this team.”