Richard Rodgers ready for playoff debut

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Richard Rodgers discovered a long time ago you can't do anything about the weather.

Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers scores a touchdown against the New England Patriots at Lambeau Field in November.

The Green Bay Packers rookie tight end saw his share of cold-weather games at St. John's High School in Shrewsbury, Mass. Things warmed up at the University of California, but even in college he remembers the occasional 35-degree monsoon playing against Oregon State.

Last week, the temperatures dipped to frostbite conditions. The Packers kept practice inside, but opened up the doors to the Hutson Center to acclimate the team to the winter. Starting left guard Josh Sitton joked that maybe coaches took things a little too far with it getting as cold as 22-degrees, but it was all done in preparation for Sunday's NFC divisional-round playoff game against Dallas.

"It's probably going to be the coldest game we played this year," Rodgers said Friday. "Hutson Center was pretty bad. We just have to get out there and run around a little bit. Once you get out there and run around, you get adjusted to it pretty fast."

Rodgers knows this opportunity is what the NFL is all about. His father is the special-teams coordinator for Carolina, whose season came to an end in a 31-17 loss to Seattle Saturday night. Now, the son has a shot at advancing.

Once the calendar rolls to January, playoff football is more than just physical. There's a mental side the Packers have looked to harness leading into Sunday's game at Lambeau Field.

With game-time temperatures in the low-20s, this won't be the Ice Bowl II regardless of how some may be branding it. However, it is an opportunity for the Packers to get back to the NFC championship for the first time in four years.

Rodgers finished the regular season with 20 catches for 225 yards and two touchdowns. A quarter of those receptions came in Green Bay's 30-20 win over Detroit in the regular-season finale.

The third-round pick didn't do much gloating about his career-day, but the 40 receiving yards he grinded from the Lions was critical in the victory. The Packers will be looking for more of that timely production in the postseason.

The platoon of Rodgers and veteran Andrew Quarless (29 catches for 323 yards and three touchdowns) wasn't dominating, but there were positives. Rodgers improved as a blocker over the course of the year and developed more of a role in the offense.

It hasn't been easy for the Packers to replace Jermichael Finley's production in the middle of the field. Rodgers has stepped up when asked. As the game slows down, he believes the possibilities are endless.

"I think I just improved every week," Rodgers said Friday. "That's what I've been trying to do is watch the film and get better at all the things I need to get better at.

"I just try to get better and make the most out of my opportunities and when Aaron throws me the ball, I try to catch it and be in the right place at the right time."

Rodgers has leaned on Quarless for support during the stretch run. The fifth-year veteran already has bestowed a few words of wisdom for Rodgers and fellow rookie Justin Perillo about the magnitude of the playoffs.

Quarless won a Super Bowl ring in his first NFL season in 2010. Now, Rodgers and 10 other rookies are trying to follow in the tight end's footsteps.

"I don't know if the emotions are any different, but I just think we're excited to get started with the playoffs and play our first playoff game" Rodgers said. "It's probably going to be a little bit different from the regular season, but we just have to take it one at a time."

-- and follow him on Twitter @WesHod

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