GREEN BAY—Aaron Rodgers has gotten less work in the preseason games this year than he's accustomed to, but neither he nor his head coach is questioning whether he's ready for the regular season.
"I'd say Aaron's in game-ready shape," Mike McCarthy said following Monday's practice, the second-to-last training-camp workout. "He's been very sharp. I feel very confident that Aaron's ready to go."
Rodgers said essentially the same thing following last Friday's third preseason game, when he directed just one series rather than play at least a half, as he's done in third preseason games past.
He may or may not get one more series in Thursday's preseason finale in Kansas City, but in the meantime he's focused on his conditioning this week by playing scout-team defense in walk-through periods, throwing on the side and running the scout-team offense in team drills. It's all with an eye toward preparing for 70-plus snaps every Sunday beginning Sept. 8.
"To make sure I'm in shape," he said. "I'm pretty much spent after a practice like today."
When he has played in the preseason, for the most part Rodgers has been pleased with the results. In five drives, he has led the offense to three field goals, one missed field goal and one turnover on downs at the goal line, which he still feels should have been ruled a touchdown following a replay review.
"Yeah, we got in the end zone," Rodgers said of the fourth-and-goal handoff to running back James Starks on the first drive of the first preseason game. "We're counting that one.
"The biggest issue (this preseason) is we didn't have our whole team together."
That's starting to change, with receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb returning to practice from injuries. To help them get back in a rhythm, Rodgers was throwing passes to both off to the side during Monday's workout.
With Thursday's game in Kansas City a showcase for the second and third units, Rodgers also was running the scout-team offense, which he loves, as much for the memories it rekindles as anything.
He said he was "breaking the rules" on occasion by changing plays and routes, just to have fun. On one snap in the red zone, he checked to a seam route to Cobb – because he "wanted to work on that with Randall" – and he zipped a throw past rookie safety Chris Banjo's ear for a touchdown.
He also gave Nelson a test for his recovering knee, firing one high and deep that Nelson caught up to, as sure a sign as any that he'll be ready for Week 1, too.
"He's a fast healer, and we're glad that he's feeling good," Rodgers said of Nelson, who hasn't yet played in the preseason but could get a few snaps on Thursday, according to McCarthy. "I'm sure after today will be a good judge of where he's really at.
"We threw a lot of balls on the side, and he had to go about 50 yards to get that deep one in the air across the field. It was fun to see him run that one down."
Rodgers also expressed confidence in how the offensive line has come together, and he praised the play over the past month of tight end Jermichael Finley and receiver James Jones. He added that he feels Jarrett Boykin has nailed down the fourth receiver spot with solid work the past two weeks.
As for the fifth and possibly sixth receiver, he mentioned Jeremy Ross, Tyrone Walker, Myles White and draft picks Kevin Dorsey and Charles Johnson all as contenders. Dorsey (toe) missed practice again on Monday, though, which doesn't help his chances.
"There are a lot of guys with something to prove this week," Rodgers said. "I think the reminder you can tell the guys this week is remember you're playing for all 32 teams."
Regarding the defense, Rodgers spoke of the unit playing with an "edge," an element on display since the first week of camp.
He likes what he has seen with the addition of Datone Jones up front, the new hybrid role for Mike Neal and rookie "camp sensation" Micah Hyde proving very capable amidst a number of injuries in the secondary.
"I think we have a different look inside," Rodgers said. "It's exciting to see those guys step up and the character of this team start to take shape." Additional coverage - Aug. 26