Aaron Rodgers is free to play like Aaron Rodgers again.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback finished the last leg of his MVP campaign in 2014 confined to the pocket after straining his calf in a 20-3 win over Tampa Bay in Week 16. Eight months later, the muscle is fully healed and Rodgers is back extending plays with his feet.
Rodgers looked at home in last Thursday's 22-11 win over the New England Patriots. He had full range of the field when completing 11-of-19 passes for 117 yards and even pushed the gas for one 8-yard scramble.
It was a much different situation during January's NFC title game when Rodgers was primarily restricted to the pocket against the Seattle Seahawks, who also featured the league's top defense last season.
"I was a pocket quarterback at the end of last year because of the injury," Rodgers said. "I'm back to playing the way I like to play, which is to extend plays when I can and get rid of it when I need to. But I have an opportunity to escape the pocket and create a different angle, then I'm going to. It's nice to be back."
The starting offense played 33 snaps against the Patriots. It was a complete reversal from last year's opener in Tennessee when Rodgers, receiver Jordy Nelson and running back Eddie Lacy all sat out, and the rest of the starters played no more than a series.
Rodgers played 69 combined snaps in the second and third preseason games last season before sitting out the finale against Kansas City. Packers coach Mike McCarthy wants his team to get off to a faster start this year and establishing rhythm with the first-team offense could play into that notion.
Rodgers sees value in preseason action, especially with competitions brewing at receiver and tight end. He was sacked twice in New England, but was taken to the ground on only one of those.
"It's up to Mike," said Rodgers about his snaps. "Obviously the goal for us is to stay healthy and to find some sort of rhythm. The preseason has been all over the place. There's been years, I remember one year I didn't get touched in the preseason and the first regular season game we had four or five sacks.
"Some years we struggle on offense and we come out and put up big numbers in the first couple games. We've started a little bit slow the last couple years. Mike maybe wants us to get a little more work in the preseason, which is fine."
Rodgers said he had "zero doubt" about the calf going into the preseason opener. He's ready for whatever workload awaits him in the preseason, though it's possible he could sit out the Packers' preseason finale against New Orleans on Sept. 3.
From what quarterbacks/receivers coach Alex Van Pelt has seen so far, the mobile version of Rodgers is back.
"It was obviously good to see," Van Pelt said. "The game plan changes in Seattle if he doesn't have the calf. We got an awful lot of man-to-man coverage down the stretch there, I don't know if that would have been the case if he'd been able to move. So it's good to see him back.
"Obviously it's a strength of his. Sure he can beat you from the pocket, but what he does as well as anybody if not better than anybody in the league is extend plays, as we all know. To have that be a part of his game, it's exciting to see again."
-Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt had only a few hours to get Ryan White ready to play after the defensive back re-signed with the Packers prior to last Thursday’s preseason game against New England.
White, who went to camp with the Packers last summer, ended up playing 10 snaps against the Patriots because of injuries in the secondary.
“I think Ryan graduated with like a 4.0. He’s really smart,” Whitt said. “I didn’t meet with him until the day of the game that morning and we just went through some recall things. … He’s smart. He understands the nickel and the dime. I thought he went in the game and did a really nice job, especially with just one meeting.”
-Rookie defensive lineman Christian Ringo continued his best week of camp on Thursday, picking up wins over offensive linemen Garth Gerhart and Vince Kowalski during one-on-one drills.
The sixth-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette also nearly picked off Rodgers on a screen pass when he was working on the defensive scout team later during a red-zone period.
“That’s a d-lineman’s dream to get an interception or fumble. I let that one pass me by,” Ringo laughed. “When I get into a rhythm like that, I can mix it up like that. I had a good rhythm going that day. I’m just going to try to continue to keep it going. Hopefully carry it over to Sunday.”
Did not practice: T David Bakhtiari (knee), DT Mike Daniels (ankle), CB Demetri Goodson (calf), S Morgan Burnett (personal), WR Javess Blue (shoulder), TE Justin Perillo (concussion), CB Kyle Sebetic (ankle).
Returned: CB Tay Glover-Wright (hamstring).
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