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Aaron Rodgers feels ‘more eyes are on all of us’

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GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers summed it up pretty well.

During a week unlike any in recent memory, if ever, at 1265 Lombardi Ave., seeing President/CEO Mark Murphy and General Manager Brian Gutekunst discuss the organization’s change in direction with four weeks left in the season has been an emphatic reality check on the Packers’ locker room.

The playoffs may be a mathematical pipe dream and the team’s final won-loss record may become just a historical footnote, but there’s plenty on the line these last four games.

“I think everybody’s kind of realizing we’re all under the microscope even more, and who knows what the changes are going to be after the season,” Rodgers said following Wednesday’s practice. “There’s the feeling that more eyes are on all of us, whether it’s Mark or Brian or scouts.

“I feel like the energy was good today. Unfortunately, the urgency that you need early in the season, we kind of had it out there at practice today.”

That’s only natural given the shakeup that has replaced Mike McCarthy as head coach with Joe Philbin on an interim basis. Philbin noted attendance at the optional Tuesday weightlifting session was a season-high, another sign that player motivation can shift when change is afoot.

Rodgers said he plans to address the team in some fashion later in the week, explaining since Monday that players have had a number of conversations amongst themselves to try to navigate an unfamiliar situation.

Receiver Davante Adams said the team's leadership council has met to keep communication open and make sure the locker room as a whole takes a proper and productive approach into the final month.

"Just to make sure everybody knows we still have a job to do as far as keeping the young guys, their mind right, through the change," Adams said. "Because it’s a big deal being a rookie having to go through something like this. Having to deal with a long season is already enough, but having a change … can kind of weigh on you. Just basically the leaders and captains of this team were coming together to make sure everybody has the right mind frame as we finish up the season."

In the meantime, the two-time MVP quarterback is still trying to keep things loose, too, following the lead of Philbin, whose dry humor is appreciated by those who know him best.

“Every time he talks he reminds us how simple this game is,” Rodgers said. “It’s not easy, but sometimes it gets overcomplicated, and it comes down to the little things. He’s always reminding us and harping on those things. Hopefully I’d say we’re going to have a better attention to detail this week.”

Rodgers may have as big an adjustment as anyone, hearing a different voice calling plays into his helmet on Sunday vs. Atlanta. Other than the first three-quarters of the 2015 season, when Tom Clements assumed the duty, Rodgers has had only McCarthy as his play-caller in his 11 seasons as a starting QB.

“I’ve been translating Pittsburgh for a long time, so I think I’ll be able to figure out his East Coast dialect a little better from the start,” Rodgers joked. “No, it’ll be good. He was calling the plays in today at practice, and you just get used to that voice.”

Rodgers said he and Philbin will have to get on the same page as far as signals and other body language, but he doesn’t expect anything to change at the line of scrimmage as far as the checks and audibles built into the offense. Adams noted the offense has to "buy into what Joe has planned for us ... and make it work."

What also hasn’t changed is the need for the Packers to execute better on third down and in the red zone. At 35.6 percent, Green Bay’s third-down conversion rate has dropped to 26th in the league, and the Packers’ 62.2 percent TD rate in the red zone is 14th.

“We need to fix that if we want to win games,” Rodgers said.

As for Philbin undergoing a formal audition for the potential full-time gig as head coach in 2019, Rodgers said that’s not for him to weigh in on. Philbin ranks among the very favorite coaches Rodgers has ever played for, so he certainly doesn’t want to let him down, no matter what the future holds.

“It would be great to play great for him and give him an opportunity,” Rodgers said. “We all love Joe.”

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