A more somber Aaron Rodgers still bullish on Packers' offense
GREEN BAY - Quarterback Aaron Rodgers answered all the questions posed to him during his midweek video news conference Wednesday, but he wasn’t having as much fun with it as he had been when the Packers were undefeated.
After a 38-10 loss Sunday to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that dropped the Packers to 4-1, Rodgers openly addressed several offensive issues that plagued the team, but three days later he wasn’t feeling as reflective.
Rodgers brushed off the first question about whether opponents had figured out coach Matt LaFleur’s offense, saying, “So because of one game, what is it you’re implying?”
When asked again, he replied, “One out of five.”
Rodgers went on to answer all the questions asked and wasn’t short with anybody else, but compared to the past few weeks he hardly smiled and wasn’t nearly as playful.
He gave long answers to questions about tight end Marcedes Lewis and former teammate Randall Cobb, who plays for Sunday's opponent, the Houston Texans.
Much of the focus on social media regarding the Packers’ loss has been about whether their offensive dominance the first four weeks of the season was because they hadn’t played a defense nearly as good as Tampa Bay’s.
It’s not unlike criticism that followed blowout losses to San Francisco (twice) and the Los Angeles Chargers last year, although more of the focus has been on Rodgers because of two interceptions he threw, including one returned for a touchdown.
Rodgers was willing to discuss aspects of the Tampa Bay loss, but he made it clear that the loss was behind the Packers and they were looking ahead to the Texans.
“At this point we’ve moved on,” he said. “We’re on to Houston and that’s the league. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing really well and winning the game, it’s the same thing. You can’t be dwelling on the past game, especially we’re at Wednesday already.
“We can’t be feeling ourselves too much when it’s going good and too down on ourselves or kind of hanging our heads a little bit coming off a rough week.”
Near the end, a reporter told Rodgers he seemed down in the dumps.
"I’m definitely not down in the dumps, so don’t project that onto me. That’s not a reality,” he said.
Packers bristle over Dean's claim
When an opponent calls the momentum-killing play in a game predictable, it's bound to get some attention.
NFL teams conceal game plans like top-secret matters of national security. So when Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean said he knew what route receiver Davante Adams was going to run before his pick-6 against Rodgers, yes, the Packers heard.
They just don't seem to be buying it.
"I think that's just something that DBs like to say to make it seem like they're more of a student of the game than what they are," Packers receiver Davante Adams said. "I'm not really — at the end of the day, whether or not, I mean, nobody knows but him. But, I mean, I think it was more so the coverage and the situation than anything.
"But saying that you knew based off of formation, all that makes you sound smarter, so I think that's just why you go with that."
If Dean didn't know what route was coming, he surely couldn't have played it better. Dean blanketed Adams, who has been especially effective on sideline routes early this season, by the time Rodgers' throw arrived.
Regardless of whether they believe Dean, the Packers will likely take a closer look at their tendencies after hearing an opponent call them the one thing NFL offenses loath: predictable.
"Self scouting is very important," Rodgers said, "when you review games and also when you put plans together and then looking at yourself playing as well, whether you're a receiver, lineman, quarterback, running back, it doesn't matter. I think self scout is very important. Taking a look at that is always important, whether he knew that or not, he made a good break on the ball and a good play."
Bakhtiari sits out of practice
LaFleur opted for a less-demanding indoor practice Wednesday, calling the session “more of an above-the-neck type practice” as the team felt “banged up” and 13 players ended up on the injury report.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari (chest) did not participate. The All-Pro tackle exited Sunday’s game early in the second half after defensive end William Gholston landed on top of him at the end of a run play. LaFleur said Monday the team would know more about Bakhtiari’s status as the week progressed.
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Defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster (shoulder) did not practice and spent time with the rehab group. Lancaster was ruled out of the game at the beginning of the second half. A source told PackersNews.com the backup nose tackle is expected to miss minimal time.
Safety Darnell Savage (quadriceps), tight end Robert Tonyan (ankle) and running back Tyler Ervin (wrist) did not practice. Savage exited late in the third quarter and did not return. Tonyan spent some time in the medical tent after the second play of the second quarter when he caught his foot in the turf on a route, but he returned two drives later. Ervin was inactive for the game and missed each day of practice last week.
Inside linebacker Krys Barnes (shoulder/calf), outside linebacker Rashan Gary (ankle), cornerback Kevin King (quadriceps), tight end Marcedes Lewis (knee), outside linebacker Preston Smith (shoulder), outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (ankle) and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) were limited participants.
King practiced in a limited capacity last Friday after missing the entire week and was inactive Sunday. St. Brown came off injured reserve after a full week of practice and played in his first game since Dec. 23, 2018.
While LaFleur toned down the intensity in the Don Hutson Center, he said he’s wary of practicing indoors for consecutive days even with rain in this week’s forecast.
“I think the dangers of going inside is if we do three straight days,” LaFleur said, “just being on the turf is a little bit harder on our guys’ bodies and I always want to be mindful of just the stress that we’re putting on their body because ultimate that’s what they need to be successful on Sundays is they need to feel fresh so they can go out there and play fast while still getting in the necessary work from a practice standpoint.”
Packers to add linebacker
With Christian Kirksey still on injured reserve with a pectoral injury, the Packers added depth by signing fifth-year linebacker James Burgess off the Atlanta practice squad. PackersNews.com confirmed the intent to sign the 26-year-old, contingent on him passing six days of COVID-19 testing and a physical.
Burgess last played at the end of the 2019 regular season, finishing the last 10 games of that year with the New York Jets. He started this season on the Jets’ reserve/COVID-19 list and was released at final cuts in early September. The Falcons signed him to the practice squad Oct. 13.
Burgess was an undrafted free agent out of Louisville in 2016 and bounced around four practice squads until landing in Cleveland that December. In 2017 he emerged for the Browns, appearing in 14 games (nine starts) and recording four sacks, seven quarterback hits and 75 total tackles.
He played only three games in 2018, however, before knee and hamstring injuries limited him. He ended that season on the Miami Dolphins' practice squad.
Green Bay will not have to make a roster move to accommodate the signing Burgess if it becomes official. As of Wednesday’s practice, they had only 50 players on their active 53-person roster after cornerback Parry Nickerson was placed on injured reserve.
Nickerson was signed before the start of the season but was inactive every game before Sunday in Tampa Bay. He played two special teams snaps before injuring a hamstring.
Also, the Packers released wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb off the practice squad and signed offensive lineman Ben Braden. It is the 26-year-old guard's second stint on the Packers' practice squad.