Packers’ Rodgers focuses on offensive line as season arrives
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers, the MVP quarterback who might be in his last year with the Green Bay Packers, and Josh Myers, the rookie center, weren’t on the same page during Thursday’s training camp practice.
With the play clock winding down, Rodgers angrily turned around and called a timeout. Then Rodgers yelled to Myers to snap the football.
With Myers, a second-round pick, entrenched as the center and fellow rookie Royce Newman, a fourth-round pick, leading the competition to start at right guard, Rodgers is ramping up the intensity and expectations on his revamped offensive line with a little more than two weeks until the season opens at the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 12.
“It’s important that he feels the urgency in my demeanor moving forward, especially with potentially a young person playing next to him,” Rodgers said afterward.
“We need him to play more like a veteran and not like a rookie. He’s capable of it. The good thing is there’s a lot of situations that have happened over the last couple weeks that are great teaching moments.”
For Rodgers, time was of the essence on that play. It’s also of the essence this season. After a drama-filled offseason in which Rodgers’ return to the team wasn’t secured until just before the start of training camp, there’s no guarantee Rodgers will return for the 2022 season.
All-Pro receiver Davante Adams will be a free agent after this season, as will ascending playmakers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Robert Tonyan.
Complicating matters, the Packers are a projected $50 million over the 2022 salary cap ceiling of $208.2 million.
Thus, after back-to-back appearances in the NFC championship game, this might be the last chance at a Super Bowl for this core group.
“I think we all know what’s at stake,” Rodgers said. “I talked about that a little bit the other day about perspective and how important that perspective is, to focus on this season and enjoy the most out of this season, because there are a lot of unknowns. They jumped through some hoops to get under the cap this year. We’re just going to enjoy this season. It’s Titletown. It’s championship or disappointment just about every year.”
With Rodgers, Green Bay’s skill-position players are among the best in the NFL. The key to building upon last year’s No. 1-ranked scoring offense will be the offensive line. With All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari recovering from the ACL tear sustained on New Year’s Eve, Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins is having a strong training camp at left tackle.
Myers is replacing All-Pro center Corey Linsley, who signed with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. Lucas Patrick, who was last year’s starting right guard, and second-year player Jon Runyan Jr. are battling at left guard. Newman started last week’s preseason game against the New York Jets and figures to start again at Buffalo in Saturday’s preseason finale.
“That’s always a concern,” coach Matt LaFleur said of the youth up front. “Whoever we put out there, they’ll definitely have a lot of preparation time together, being that the next two weeks will be focused on the New Orleans Saints. So, I think we’ll feel pretty good about what we’re going to do going into the game.”
Rodgers’ outburst at Myers is part of that preparation.
“I would guess, knowing him a little bit now, that that’ll be his one-time mistake on that,” Rodgers said. “You need plays like that. I’m not mad about that. I’m frustrated he didn’t snap it at the moment but I’m not ultimately mad. I’m way happier it happened in practice than down in New Orleans.”
NOTES: After missing a week with an injured throwing shoulder, QB Jordan Love practiced all week and figures to be the starter against Buffalo. Barring a setback, LaFleur said Love will play the first half and perhaps into the third quarter before being replaced by Kurt Benkert. ... First-year K JJ Molson, who remains on the roster despite the presence of steady veteran Mason Crosby, made field goals of 56 and 60 yards. ... During a red zone period, Rodgers threw back-to-back touchdown passes to Adams and Tonyan. Adams reached low to pluck the ball from just above the top of the grass while Tonyan made a leaping one-handed catch. ... Rodgers confirmed he’s taken the COVID-19 vaccine. “There’s guys on the team that haven’t been vaccinated. I think it’s a personal decision,” he said. “I’m not going to judge those guys. There are guys that’ve been vaccinated that have contracted COVID. It’s an interesting issue that I think we’re going to see played out the entire season.”
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