Aaron Rodgers absent as expected from OTA; Jordan Love relishing the extra reps
GREEN BAY - Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is not in Green Bay for the first week of Packers offseason workouts, coach Matt LaFleur said Tuesday. The workouts are voluntary and Rodgers was not expected to be on hand.
Rodgers’ new contract calls for a workout bonus of just $50,000 for his participation in the three-day mandatory minicamp, which runs from June 7-9.
The Packers' remaining OTA days are May 26, May 31, June 1, June 3, June 13-14 and June 16.
Among the other players who weren't on hand Tuesday were cornerback Jaire Alexander (who last week signed a rich new extension) and receiver Sammy Watkins.
As to whether Rodgers will be here anytime during voluntary workouts or OTA sessions, LaFleur said, “It's all on him. It's voluntary."
Prior to the 2021 offseason during which Rodgers was involved in a standoff with Packers brass, the four-time MVP quarterback had always been present for at least one offseason practice before training camp. Rodgers recently told radio host Pat McAfee he planned on coming to Green Bay sometime before mandatory minicamp.
Even if Rodgers is not in Green Bay, he and LaFleur are staying in close contact.
"I talked to him last night for a while, which was great; just kind of updated him on where we are," LaFleur said. "Just like every offseason, there's always tweaks to what you're doing. He’s in good spirits."
With Rodgers absent, quarterback Jordan Love will receive a majority of the practice reps. The balance between having the offense ready for the playbook Rodgers will run and progressing Love along at a realistic pace is an ever-present goal, according to LaFleur.
"I think that's always a challenge, right?" LaFleur said. "And I think Jordan is doing a great job of really taking ownership of this offense and it's a great opportunity for him.
"He hasn't probably gotten the number of reps that I don't think anybody would like. So it's just maximizing those opportunities and he's got a great opportunity to get the majority of the reps out there throughout the course of OTA's."
The young quarterback is heading into his third year, a career thus far marked by a global pandemic and uncertainty about Rodgers' status with the team. This offseason has provided a little more certainty: The Packers and Rodgers reached a deal on a record-breaking extension that could keep Rodgers in Green Bay for three more years.
That means if Love is to stay in Green Bay, he must continue to work as a backup.
"I was super happy for Aaron. Obviously the dude, what he’s done the last two years, but personally for me it just means I’m about to be a backup again for this year," Love said Tuesday. "That’s out of my control for now. I was happy for Aaron, but at the same time it’s like, 'ahhh.'"
With more reps available to him this offseason, Love and LaFleur are working on the small details.
"Every year I’ve been here I've come back, it’s more confidence and more comfortable with the system, knowing what’s going on a little more," Love said. "Obviously it’s a process being a quarterback in the NFL ,and the more reps you get ... it helps. There are a lot of takeaways, things I wish I could do better and obviously things I think I did good. Just trying to work on those things, tightening the details."
Rodgers future with the team being settled for now provides a clearer sense of the future in Green Bay and it also gives Love a clearer battle plan for the offseason. For now, it means taking advantage of every day Rodgers is not at practice.
"Obviously now they’ve signed him back, I don’t think it changes anything for me," Love said. "Like I said, I’m still here, I’m going to do my job and I’m competing to be that guy if he wasn’t here or he is here. Like you said, he’s not here right now, so I’m getting all those one reps, so I look at it as I’m the guy right now.
"I think that’s Aaron’s game plan is he doesn’t really need this time right now. I enjoy it. Him not being here, it just means more reps for me, more reps for everybody else in the quarterback room. So obviously I’m loving it."
Packers, Saints set for joint practices
LaFleur announced the Packers will host joint practices with the New Orleans Saints before hosting them for an exhibition game during the second preseason week in August.
LaFleur has expressed a fondness for joint practices. The Packers hosted joint practices with the Houston Texans during the 2019 preseason.
Injured players working their way back
Offensive lineman David Bakhtiari was in the building Tuesday, as he has been for much of the past year, but was not a participant in practice. After a season spent largely on the sidelines recovering from a knee injury, the process to return the left tackle to playing form is still ongoing.
“He’s working hard and he’s doing a nice job,” said LaFleur of Bakhtiari’s progress.
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Tight end Robert Tonyan spent the practice time rehabbing with trainers off to the side. During the open media portion, Tonyan went through a series of drills that tested his knee, which suffered an ACL tear on Oct. 28 against the Arizona Cardinals. This is the most strenuous work Tonyan has been seen doing since his rehab began.
Whenever Tonyan is ready to return, LaFleur and coaches know he can lead the tight end unit again.
“Bobby has got a lot to like about just his vertical threat. He’s a sure-handed guy,” LaFleur said. “What was it, he had about a 90% completion rate the year before? And there’s a comfort factor with him and Aaron that we feel really good about. He’s a guy that’s had a lot of game experience and so we know what we’re going to get from him.”
Second year running back Kylin Hill, who suffered a season ending knee injury the same game as Tonyan, was working alongside Tonyan and the trainers.