Packers QB Aaron Rodgers expected back vs. Seahawks, but Jordan Love feels ready if needed
GREEN BAY - Even while taking all the first-team reps without the expectation of playing Sunday, Jordan Love said life as the Green Bay Packers quarterback has felt more normal than a week ago.
Love left little doubt the expectation is for Aaron Rodgers to play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. The three-time MVP could not be activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list until Saturday, the first day his absence from the team as an unvaccinated player with a positive test could return.
“Aaron’s been in meetings all week, been in Zooms,” Love said. “So it felt a lot more normal than last week. It felt like he was here, just obviously not having him in practice.”
Love said it’s been beneficial for him to have a week of first-team reps at practice, instead of running the Packers’ scout team. It allowed him to focus on fixing issues he noticed Monday when the second-year quarterback watched game film from his first NFL start.
While Love’s toughness has been lauded after facing an onslaught of the Kansas City Chiefs’ constant blitz pressure, he said his execution was not good enough. Love completed 19 of 34 passes against the Chiefs, and though he was better in the fourth quarter, the first three left much to be desired.
“I obviously got a lot of takeaway of what I can clean up,” Love said. “Footwork got a little shaky on some plays, and you don’t really see that until you watch it back on film and see some of the left-right balls I was throwing, I was falling off. Just some things I can clean up.”
Love said the experience of his first NFL start gave him some confidence. It was his first time facing live snaps in a meaningful game in two years, since his junior season at Utah State.
The way Love handled the pressure bred confidence in his teammates.
“After the game I went up to him, and I was telling him his command and composure in the huddle, there was no flinch in his eye in the huddle," left guard Jon Runyan Jr. said. "Even when we were down 13-nothing, he was still looking us all in the eyes, giving us the play, being really confident. His demeanor, his presence, he was taking a lot of unnecessary shots, but he was hanging in there. He was being tough, and as an offensive lineman, when you see that from your quarterback, you really feed off that.
“So I was really impressed by that, and he’s not really that vocal leader, but you can tell by his presence and his demeanor, we fed off of that. So I was really impressed with Jordan and how he carried himself in that first game in a crazy environment like Arrowhead was on the road, and I think that’s going to carry him forward pretty far.”
Even if Rodgers returns, coach Matt LaFleur said he will not alter his regular Saturday schedule. That means Rodgers will not have a full practice before playing Sunday, though he might participate in a walkthrough and would be able to attend meetings in person. LaFleur said he has no reservation with Rodgers playing in a game after missing the entire week of practice.
LaFleur said he’s told Love to be ready in case Rodgers isn’t cleared. Love has been in constant communication with Rodgers this week, he said. Their conversations have left him with little doubt of what to expect Sunday.
“I think we’ve had good communication,” Love said. “He’s been in meetings all week, so we’ve been talking all week. The game plan has been that he’ll be back Saturday and rolling from there.”
Injury uncertainty remains high
The Packers have more questions than answers when it comes to availability for Sunday’s game. After listing offensive lineman David Bakhtiari as “doubtful” on Friday’s injury report, the club also listed tight end Dominique Dafney (hamstring) and defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (concussion) as doubtful as well.
Defensive lineman Kenny Clark (back), wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (ankle) and cornerback Eric Stokes were all listed as “questionable” for Sunday.
Stokes was a full participant in Friday’s practice.
“We’ll see how he’s feeling up to game time,” LaFleur said of Stokes’ status, saying of the fluke pregame injury that kept him out of the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, “I think anytime you avoid significant injury, you feel like you dodged one.”
Keke continues to make his way through the concussion protocol.
“I think anytime somebody gets a concussion, you’re always concerned," LaFleur said. 'And it’s just the process of going through that protocol. But absolutely, anytime somebody has a concussion, you definitely have that concern as a coach.”
Tight end Marcedes Lewis had appeared on the injury report this week, but purely for a veteran off day. He was back at practice on Friday, full-go.
Seahawks running back Chris Carson (neck) was ruled out Friday. The Seahawks listed corner Bless Austin out for Sunday with a non-injury-related personal matter. He did not participate in practice all week. The club also ruled out safety Marquise Blair with a knee injury and linebacker Cody Barton (quadricep). Defensive tackle Al Woods (non-injury related) is questionable for Sunday’s game.
Most importantly, wide receiver DK Metcalf (foot) – after not practicing Thursday – was listed as a limited participant on Friday’s practice report. His status for Sunday’s matchup with the Packers was not listed.
Runyan always looking for flaws to correct
Asked to reflect on his growth and impact thus far, Runyan said Friday that he has been pleased in some areas, while finding ample room to improve in others.
“I think all season my pass protection, there’s been some games that I’ve struggled, but overall, my pass protection’s been pretty good,” Runyan said. “In the run game, I’m pretty critical of myself – when I watch film, I think the run game, I need to be a lot better at times.
“And that's just like little things here and there, whether that's my angle departure, getting my second step in the ground or getting vertical on double teams and I try to focus on that stuff every week. That’s just little things that motivate me throughout the week to get better and carry that into the game.”