Aaron Rodgers ready to ramp up intensity when Packers' padded practices resume

Jim Owczarski
Packers News
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GREEN BAY - The last time Aaron Rodgers was on a field wearing a jersey was Jan. 19, after the Green Bay Packers’ 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. The coronavirus pandemic extended the 36-year-old quarterback’s offseason away from the Packers' facility by several months, as all conditioning and camps from April through June were canceled.

It was the first offseason since 2017 in which the two-time Most Valuable Player didn’t have to spend rehabilitating from a known injury (2018 collarbone, 2019 knee/leg) and Rodgers said the additional time away “gave me a lot of time out where I stay with my workout group and my folks that I work with in the offseason, so I feel really good about where I’m at physically.

“Mentally, it was different, the way we went through the playbook this offseason.”

Over the weekend, head coach Matt LaFleur said there wasn’t much coaching of technique of the quarterbacks in terms of reviewing film of individual workouts but rather an emphasis — and tests — on the playbook.

“The verbiage is definitely coming a little easier for me at this point than it was last year,” Rodgers said. “It was a good offseason of Zoom meetings for us, just kind of going through the installs and talking about what we like and what we want to take out and how we want to adjust things.

“I appreciate that about Matt — the working relationship that we have, there’s a lot of great conversations. And it’s fun having (offensive coordinator Nathaniel) Hackett in there and (passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Luke) Getsy and I feel like we went through the entire playbook this offseason. We obviously had a lot of time, we filled it up with a lot of football conversations I think are going to pay dividends come the season.”

Those dividends will have to be paid out quickly on the back end of the summer, however. With no spring work, there are now no preseason games and just over a month before the team has to cut its roster to 53 and begin prep for the opener in Minnesota on Sept. 13.

To do that, Rodgers admitted there might have to be some added intensity to practices once pads are allowed to be put on Aug. 17.

“We’re going to have to accomplish a lot,” Rodgers said of the month-long period of on-field work that begins Aug. 13. “We’re going to have to find a way to get the speed of our play up very quickly. We’re going to have to get some hitting going. There’s got to be some padded practices where we’re maybe not tackling guys to the ground or ripping guys, but there needs to be some thudding up in practice and we’ve got to get that feel of the contact back. I think it’s going to put a stress on every team, and the team that’s able to deal with it the quickest will probably come out the hottest at the beginning.

“As we learned last year, it’s about peaking at the right time, starting off fast but then maintaining it throughout a long season. Again, we’re hopeful that we can play the entire season, but there will be a lot of things we’ve got to do. Where it used to be a nine-week offseason, a training camp, four preseason games, we’ve got to do in a short amount of time. The urgency is definitely up with us.”

Here some other highlights from Rodgers’ availability Monday:

With the drafting of Jordan Love, Rodgers has said he may finish his career elsewhere and he spoke on savoring his time in Green Bay:

“Well, I think in general, as you get older, you do enjoy the little moments just a tad bit more. And like I’ve said before, a lot of the relationships that are still here are with ... the training room guys, the equipment staff, (director of performance nutrition) Adam (Korzun) and his staff, people who’ve been here a long time and probably will be here long after my time is gone here.  But that’s where a lot of the memories, you start talking about things from the 2000s to 2010 era — those five years, six years when I was here — there’s not that many people still around who can relate to some of those stories. And that’s the way the business goes. It’s a short-term deal and guys like myself who are lucky enough to play a long time with the same team, it’s those relationships that you savor and you appreciate; I’ve found a lot of joy in those friendships over the years.

On the personal responsibility players must take to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak on the team:

“We have been talking about this so much, on Zoom meetings, once we were able to get into the facility (Sunday). … There just comes a personal responsibility about taking care of your teammates. I don’t think we need to enforce any other special things besides hey, this is the accountability to the squad. Think about who you’re surrounding yourself with, who you’re interacting with, how you’re taking care of your body, and boosting your immune system, and then also reporting any symptoms you may be having.”

On if he thought about opting out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns:

“I did not consider it. I was always gonna play. I respect any person who decides to opt out. There’s a lot of different circumstances around, I’m sure, each individual case. I know Geronimo (Allison), I saw he recently opted out (in Detroit). I know he has a young child. It’s just a different year, and I respect all those guys who decided to make that decision, even Devin (Funchess). We had a conversation before training camp started and he talked to me before it had kind of gone public. I just told him I respect his decision. I have a lot of appreciation for how difficult that must be to weigh the love of playing with football with the safety of your family. So I have an appreciation for that and absolutely zero judgment."

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