Packers taking care to avoid 'wear and tear' on Aaron Rodgers' arm
GREEN BAY – Judging by the way Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been fitting passes into tight windows during the first three days of practice, you would have thought he had taken every practice snap during the offseason and kept on throwing during the six-week break before training camp.
Rodgers admitted he contemplated retirement prior to reporting Tuesday, so it was anybody’s guess how much throwing he did in the offseason. Left tackle David Bakhtiari posted photos of himself working out with Rodgers in California, but it was weight training and not football drills.
Coach Matt LaFleur wouldn’t say whether Rodgers had informed him how much he threw in the offseason, but he is operating a bit cautiously to start the year. Second-year pro Jordan Love appears to be getting a few more throws than Rodgers during 11-on-11 drills so Rodgers does not overdo it in the early going.
“I think we're mindful of that with all our quarterbacks, just making sure because having three quarterbacks, that's a lot of wear and tear on the arm and we don't want to burn him out too early,” LaFleur said. “So, he and I did talk about exactly what number we're looking for each day or being below a certain number.
“And so, we've got a guy out there that lets me know when we're at that halfway mark, and then I relay that to Aaron.”
Through the first three days of practice, Rodgers has taken all the snaps with the No. 1s and Love has taken the rest. Third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert has not taken any snaps in 11-on-11.
“Aaron's taking the majority of the one reps where Jordan’s going to get in a few of those,” LaFleur said. “But Jordan is going to get a significant amount of time throughout the course of the preseason.
“So, he'll get the majority of the preseason, in-game reps.”
Love has had ups and downs in the early going, looking sharp with some passes across the middle and throwing off-target on other occasions. A year ago, he had no offseason workouts prior to attending training camp, but now has seen all of the LaFleur offense.
With starting cornerback Kevin King on the reserve non-football injury list with an unspecified ailment, first-round pick Eric Stokes has been starting on the right side.
It has been a great way for a rookie to get acclimated to training camp and get quality snaps against the Packers’ best receivers. Stokes has good size (6-0½, 194 pounds) and blazing speed (4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash), but like all rookie cornerbacks he has no idea what he’s in for when the regular season starts.
LaFleur said there’s a lot to work with.
“Just a great human being,” LaFleur said. “He brings it every day. And I think there's a lot of talent there. He’s just got to learn the game. And that's going to be a process that is for all these young players.
“But he's got some of the things that you can't coach. I mean, he's got an elite speed and his change of direction is really, really good. So, he's a guy that we're really excited about.”
Big man on campus
LaFleur described tackle Dennis Kelly as “massive” and standing next to his new teammates, it’s apparent he’s every bit the 6-8, 321 pounds at which he is listed.
Kelly, who was signed to a free-agent contract Wednesday, is four inches taller than left tackle David Bakhtiari and has slightly shorter arms (33½ inches to 34), but he’s still got the length scouts look for in tackles. Kelly said he considers his height and arm length an advantage in pass blocking.
“I think part of it is understanding that I am a really big person and it takes a long time to get around me,” he said. “And so as long as I can have confidence in that and have confidence in my ability with my set, it makes it hard for the defense to figure out what they want to do.
“Do they want to try and go through me? I feel comfortable sitting on a bull rush. I feel I control a speed rusher too, so I would say that's my biggest advantage.”
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The disadvantage is continually getting low in run-blocking situations.
“Trying to get low pad levels is always a thing for offensive linemen,” he said. “So, I always have to stress that.”
Loud and clear
In defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s system there is a lot of movement related to disguising coverages and players will have to be on the same page with how their assignments may change.
Safety Darnell Savage said relaying calls and making sure everyone knows his assignment has been a priority in the secondary and with all four starters plus nickel back Chandon Sullivan back together, he said the group seems to be of the same mind most of the time.
“I think the biggest thing for us is just the communication,” Savage said. “I think, right now, we're to a point where the communication is really clear, so it's like, we kind of anticipate what each other's thinking, what each other is going to do.
“So, while we're out there, it's never a time or point where we feel like we’re going to panic or anything like that when offenses motion. Plus, our offense does a lot of that kind of stuff to kind of mess with your eyes and get you confused.
“So, every day of practice is nothing but a plus.”