GREEN BAY - Their playing styles have very little in common.
Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s great play extender, the dual threat with his legs and arms, lives outside the pocket as much as between the tackle boxes. Tom Brady, the ageless wonder, the cerebral fortress within the pocket, is a master at dissecting opposing defenses.
You wouldn’t think Rodgers, seven years Brady’s junior, learned much from the five-time Super Bowl champion. But when the Packers quarterback first entered the league, there was one element of Brady’s game he and former quarterbacks coach Tom Clements studied relentlessly.
“Really tried to work on his pocket movement,” Rodgers said. “He’s phenomenal with his subtle movements in the pocket, creating space and getting into a cleaner launch point in that pocket. And that’s one thing we really worked on. Some of that is just natural instincts, but I think there is a good deal of that you can work on and try to incorporate in your own game.”
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Rodgers’ team will play Brady’s team for only the second time in his career Sunday night in New England. Their first came when the Patriots traveled to Lambeau Field in 2014. Rodgers has a good memory of that meeting, especially one critical detail.
“That we won,” Rodgers said. “That stands out. It was a close one. We made some important plays.”
Better believe, Brady hasn’t forgotten.
Breeland ready to return kicks
Bashaud Breeland was signed for his coverage and ball-hawking ability as a cornerback, but with the trade of Ty Montgomery on Tuesday, the Packers may need some help on kick returns. And the fourth-year pro out of Clemson said he’s ready to field kicks if needed.
The 26-year-old averaged 20.8 yards per return on 10 kicks in Washington last year, with a long of 35 yards. He returned just one kick in 2016.
“I did it in Washington and don’t mind doing it here, either,” Breeland said. “I don’t mind getting on the field.”
He said the hamstring injury that popped up after he was signed has healed fully and he’s ready for anything defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has in store for him, at any position in the secondary.
“It’s lot of moving parts with this defense,” Breeland said. “A lot of people be put in different positions at all time. Since I’ve been here I’ve worked a little bit of everywhere; in different spots so I have to know it. So ain’t no really set position for me, I’m just trying to find my niche and find where I can help this team.”
Backing from Belichick
Despite a disgruntled fan base, Packers coach Mike McCarthy can apparently count one of the game’s all-time great coaches among his supporters.
Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots' five-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, called the Packers a “well-coached” team with “some tough schemes” entering Sunday night’s game.
“We’re going to really need to do a good job with our preparation this week,” Belichick said, “and being able to execute all the details and the things Green Bay gets you on if you don’t.”
The Packers and Patriots haven’t played since Week 13 of the 2014 season at Lambeau Field. The Packers squeezed out a 26-21 win, tied for their narrowest victory during an undefeated home slate that season.
Much has changed since then, including different Packers coordinators on both sides of the ball. Belichick said McCarthy and Rodgers are two constants remaining.
“When we played them the last time in Green Bay,” Belichick said, “we really saw firsthand how efficient they were offensively. They could really do whatever they need to do. They can throw it. They can run it. They can play-action. They’re really good in every situation, very well-coached.
“Coach McCarthy is an excellent game planner and calls a very good game that’s hard to defend. I have a ton of respect for him and their offense.”
Safety Jerome Whitehead back) and outside linebacker Nick Perry (ankle) were the only players to miss practice.
Rodgers (knee) did not appear during the session open to the media, but he was listed as limited. It is the first time he has worked in the first practice of the week since injuring his knee against Chicago Week 1.
Also, neither Trevor Davis nor Jake Kumerow, both on injured reserve, were on the practice field on the first day they were eligible. Once either of them starts to practice, a two-week window begins in which they can work with the team before a decision on their status must be made.
Both are eligible to return after the Miami game Nov. 11. The Packers could leave either one or both on injured reserve the entire season. They have two designated-to-return options they can use and could choose to use them on someone else or not use them at all.