Packers get another good look at Jordan Love in Aaron Rodgers' absence

Ryan Wood
Packers News

GREEN BAY - On Saturdays throughout last fall, Green Bay Packers running backs would gather in a nook on their practice field to go over routes for the next day. 

One by one, they’d go through their receiving reps. A day later, the passes would be thrown by Aaron Rodgers, on his way to becoming league MVP. But this was the Saturday walk-through, and Saturday walk-throughs are light, so Rodgers rested his arm. 

Instead, the Packers running backs caught their passes from Jordan Love.

“He would be helping us work on our skills,” Aaron Jones said. “So we got to work with him a lot.” 

The Packers are getting a lot more work with Love this offseason, and not just the running backs. Rodgers is not with the team as it works through organized team activities, his standoff with the organization progressing through an uncertain offseason. Without Rodgers, Love is QB1. He took exclusive first-team reps Tuesday, a surreal glimpse at what might become the Packers new reality this fall.

Packers quarterback Jordan Love participates in organized team activities Tuesday.

Love took those reps without the bulk of the Packers' receiving depth chart. The Packers’ top five veteran receivers – Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Devin Funchess and Equanimeous St. Brown – were among 10 players missing from the voluntary on-field workouts. (Also absent were second-team All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, corner Ka’dar Hollman, corner Stanford Samuels and left tackle David Bakhtiari, who is recovering from a torn ACL.) Packers coach Matt LaFleur said he was unaware if the receivers’ collective absence was part of a joint decision, or made independently. 

It’s less than ideal for a team trying to expedite a young quarterback’s development, given the potential Love still might be QB1 this fall. In the best-case scenario, the Packers would have Rodgers. Short of that, they’d at least have the receivers Love might throw to in games.

LaFleur said it’s something the Packers can work around.

“I think it’s just more about the process of playing the position,” LaFleur said. “Of going up, whether it’s a run play or pass play, just building a routine and having consistency with that. So right now, I think even as we’re scripting, we’re less concerned about trying to put maybe the perfect person in position like we would in a game-plan situation. It’s more about just making sure we’re putting Jordan in situations so he could just continue to progress. 

“We evaluate it every day, just certain areas that we might think he needs more work at. But, no, those guys have done a great job, and the assistant coaches have done a heck of a job. They’re doing a great job of putting together great plans. So I’ve been pretty pleased with the first two days.”

The Packers hope Love’s exposure to first-team reps are for future development, instead of taking snaps this fall. LaFleur said he continues to hope Rodgers is his quarterback in 2021. He was aware of Rodgers’ comments to ESPN SportsCenter host Kenny Mayne on Monday night, the team’s opening day of OTAs. Rodgers presented his issues with management, how the Packers' front office has devalued personal relationships with players, in his opinion.

It’s clear the Packers have some mending to do with Rodgers if the quarterback decides to return for a 14th season as their starter. LaFleur was clear Rodgers’ comments did not change the team’s desire for the three-time MVP to take snaps this fall. 

“Aaron definitely knows,” LaFleur said, “how we feel about him. How he’s such an important part of our football team, such an important part of our organization, and we’re just going to continue to work through this and hopefully we can get him back in the building at some point.”

If Rodgers returns, he’ll likely be met with open arms inside the Packers' locker room. Teammates know Rodgers gives them their best chance to compete for a Super Bowl. Even more, his stance against management likely will be a popular approach among players, many of whom feel similarly.

Soon after Rodgers’ comments Monday night, safety Adrian Amos appeared to tweet his support. 

On Tuesday, Amos said his tweet “could apply to a lot of things,” rather than acknowledging it regarded Rodgers’ situation. Amos said he did not watch Rodgers’ interview, though he’s aware of the ongoing situation.

“You’ve seen things like that in the past,” Amos said. “It’s always going to be, with somebody as great as he is as a quarterback and then you have a franchise, everybody has to be able to do their jobs. Sometimes, that collides. I’m not too worried about it. Things like this happen. Yeah, I follow it. I’m not saying I just shut it out completely, but it’s one of the least of my worries.

“I haven’t heard him say anything other than (he’ll return). So I expect him to be. But, like I said, I’m not going to go home and cry if something else happens. I’m just playing it day by day, but of course you want one of the greatest, if not the greatest quarterback ever, on your team. You want him out here, but everybody has to go about their business, and I’m not going to knock anybody for getting what they feel like they deserve.”

As quarterback, Rodgers’ presence affects everyone around him. He is a major reason the Packers were able to develop their Titletown District, a revenue-generating machine for the organization. On the field, he makes the other 10 players around him better.

Jones, of course, is one of those players. The running back signed a four-year, $48 million extension in March. Six weeks later, news broke of Rodgers’ discontentment with the team.

Rodgers never gave Jones a warning he might not return, Jones said. It wasn’t until after signing the extension he received a text, and even then it was nothing but congratulatory.

Jones said Rodgers’ decision would not have influenced whether he chose to re-sign. Yes, the quarterback is essential to contention, but there were other factors that made him want to return.

“I think I’d still be here,” Jones said. “This is home. This is where I love to be. I love my coaches, my teammates, the community, the system, everything. So I feel like this is still where I would’ve been.”