Exasperated Aaron Rodgers vents over sloppy play by young receivers
GREEN BAY – On the final play of his first scout-team period this preseason, Aaron Rodgers had seen enough.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback took a snap and looked downfield. With his receivers once again out of position, a recurring theme for the scout-team offense Tuesday, Rodgers’ disgust boiled over. He chucked a pass toward the tackling dummies off to the sideline, ending practice with disdain.
At least the dummies were open.
It was the seventh day of August, 48 hours before a preseason opener in which Rodgers won’t play, but the two-time MVP quarterback wasn’t about to accept lackadaisical. Running a scout-team play is a rather simple endeavor: Each player’s assignment is drawn on a card, which is shown in the huddle immediately before the snap. To run a wrong route, then, is difficult.
It’s even harder to excuse. Rodgers remained exasperated at his locker afterward, intent on sending a message.
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“It was one of the worst card sessions we’ve had,” Rodgers said. “I don’t know how you can make it any simpler. You literally have what the play would be in our terminology on the card, and the effort level was very low. Especially with what I’m accustomed to. I’ve been running that period for a number of years.
“So it’s not a good start for us on the card period for the young guys.”
Rodgers then drew a line in the sand. He made clear which young receivers have earned his favor: Geronimo Allison, DeAngelo Yancey and Jake Kumerow.
“Everybody else,” Rodgers said, “was kind of piss poor.”
Coach Mike McCarthy has said he wants the Packers' first-team defense to get as many reps against Rodgers as possible. That means Rodgers can be expected to lead the scout-team offense through much of camp, as he has in the past. On Tuesday’s first rep, he connected with tight end Robert Tonyan for a deep pass against busted coverage.
The scout team fell apart soon after.
For Rodgers, the frustration was a wasted opportunity. It isn’t often Rodgers takes so many reps in a period with receivers fighting just to get on the roster. Usually, he’s throwing passes in practice to Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and his veteran tight ends. For receivers on the roster fringe, this was their chance to make an impression.
They made an impression Tuesday. Just not a good one.
Rodgers, at his most calculated and candid, put the youngsters on notice.
“I’m pretty specific with the people I highlight,” Rodgers said, “and it’s for a reason.”
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Asked if he expects Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst to be receptive to receivers he highlights, Rodgers said that isn’t his point. Instead, he emphasizes positive examples for younger players to follow. Among them on this team, he said, are Adams, Cobb and Allison at receiver, and tight ends Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis and Lance Kendricks.
“Those guys are practicing like pros,” Rodgers said. “That’s how you stick around in this league. It’s not some of the stuff we’ve been seeing through practice, and it’s repeat mistakes.”
Rodgers didn’t offer any excuses for his young receivers, but he did provide a reason. This deep into camp, he knows, players get tired. “I’m tired too,” he said. Perhaps that’s why practice ended not with a meaningful rep, but Rodgers discarding the football toward tackle dummies.
That fatigue can lead to a short fuse, Rodgers admitted. It shouldn’t open the door to missed assignments. As the practice portion of the Packers' preseason winds down — the team has just five more full practices left this month, and none until Sunday — Rodgers made it clear he expects more.
“When you’re a little gassed,” Rodgers said, “the mental part of it starts to go. The focus goes away, and there wasn’t the same energy at practice. Obviously, I’ve got to do a better job of bringing that when I feel it, but we’ve got to pick each other up and be a little sharper.”