Packers' offense doing its best to adapt to Aaron Rodgers' absence
GREEN BAY – There’s an old reality for anyone who enters the Green Bay Packers' offense, not entirely unique to the quarterback who has led it for more than a decade, but still rare.
The first thing a player must learn is the coach’s playbook. There is how a play should look on paper, the X’s and O’s and lines indicating where to go. This is the foundation.
Then there’s Aaron Rodgers’ offense.
That’s the next level.
“I always joked,” receiver Davante Adams said, “when I first got here, is that you’ve got to learn the Packers' offensive playbook, and then you’ve got to learn Aaron’s playbook as well. Just because of the way he can kind of mix up things, change stuff at the line, add an extra tight end in protection and things like that when they are bringing the kitchen sink. So that’s probably the biggest thing, is the way his mind works and how he can think to find a solution from nothing, or from being so much different than the initial plan.
“So we miss that type of thing, because that comes from experience and the confidence to truly know what’s going on, because you can mess up the play by changing something, and then that’s not what they bring.”
The need within this Packers offense to adapt to how the quarterback sees the field could present a unique challenge this week. Because it’s likely the quarterback taking snaps Sunday won’t be the quarterback taking reps during the week at practice.
Rodgers is ineligible to return from his reserve/COVID-19 absence until Saturday because he is unvaccinated and tested positive last week. Adams made clear he believes Rodgers, and not Jordan Love, will throw him passes Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
“I definitely do expect him to play,” Adams said.
Until then, Adams anticipates a week full of virtual communication with his quarterback. It started Wednesday morning when the two had initial conversations about their game plan against the Seahawks. Rodgers and Adams will discuss what routes they like this week, brainstorming on the best way to attack Seattle’s defense.
Adams doesn’t expect Rodgers’ absence after missing last week’s game at the Kansas City Chiefs to be a problem in reestablish their chemistry.
“We’ve built up years and years of camaraderie at this point,” Adams said. “I don’t think we’ll lose it over the course of 10 days. So I’m not too worried about that. It’ll obviously be a little bit different, but today was a little bit more of an above-the-shoulders-type day. So just moving around, making sure we know our assignments.”
With Jordan Love taking first-team snaps, the Packers operated at mostly a jog-through pace Wednesday. Coach Matt LaFleur said Rodgers was “fully involved and quite interactive” with the Packers during the morning meetings.
LaFleur said Rodgers also had an opportunity to be in post-practice meetings, where the quarterback can “discuss in detail” each play.
Bakhtiari back, but will he play?
The Packers officially activated offensive lineman David Bakhtiari off of the reserve/physically unable to perform list. The team had to activate Bakhtiari by Wednesday, in order to have him on the active roster at any point the remainder of the season.
It has been a long road back for Bakhtiari, who returned to practice Oct. 20 for the first time since tearing his ACL on Dec. 31. Bakhtiari is more than 10 months removed from reconstructive knee surgery, a key hurdle to clear for a player returning from a torn ACL.
Just because Bakhtiari is back on the 53-man roster doesn’t necessarily mean he will play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. The veteran lineman has been practicing the past two weeks, but coach Matt LaFleur wasn’t ready to bring him back ahead of the Week 9 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
With Bakhtiari back on the active roster, he is eligible to play Sunday. His availability will be determined in practice this week. As for the plan around Bakhtiari, LaFleur referenced the team’s plan to move slowly for the entire time, at least Wednesday.
“Just to, you know, get him involved in practice,” LaFleur told local media on Wednesday. “And (Wednesday’s) gonna be a little bit different in terms of, it’s gonna be mostly above the neck. We will have some individual periods, but it’s primarily gonna be more of your jog through type tempo.”
In other injury news, corner Eric Stokes was present for the stretching period on Wednesday, but was not seen participating in drills during the open media viewing period. Stokes suffered a knee injury during warm-ups ahead of Sunday’s game against the Chiefs. The Packers officially listed Stokes as a “limited participant” on Wednesday’s injury report.
Defensive lineman Kenny Clark (back) was a limited participant as well, but seen practicing Wednesday. Other limited participants were defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (concussion), tackle Dennis Kelly (back) and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (ankle).
Tight end Dominique Dafney (hamstring) did not practice, while defensive lineman Dean Lowry (hamstring) returned as a full participant. It should be noted, Wednesday’s practice was officially labeled a walk-through, so the club shares participation reports as “an estimation.”
LaFleur urges COVID-19 responsibility
If Matt LaFleur regrets his players conducting a Halloween party that led to the Packers receiving a $300,000 fine, he wasn’t about to admonish anyone Wednesday.
“I don’t know how much I can control that,” the coach said when asked if in hindsight he wishes he had prevented the Halloween party.
LaFleur said he reiterated to his players the importance of being responsible regarding COVID-19 safeguards.
“I have talked to the guys about just trying to be as responsible as you can,” LaFleur said. “I don’t think anybody is going to shut down their world, their life. But just understand what we all have at stake and the ramifications of if somebody does get it, then you get into potentially spreading it to other people, and the close contacts.”