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Aaron Rodgers in 'the best shape' to start new year

Packers QB discusses offensive possibilities


GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers is excited about a lot of things.

The Packers' veteran quarterback used some form of the word at least a handful of times when he met with the media on Tuesday, the first day of offseason workouts.

He's excited about the team's new tight ends, the potential in the backfield, the upcoming competition at right guard, and, last but not least, his health.

"I feel great," Rodgers said. "It's fun to be 33 and feel like I'm in the best shape I've been in starting an offseason program. That's exciting. That was kind of the goal I wanted to hit, and keep moving forward in that direction."

Rodgers said he aimed to come back to work under 220 pounds and accomplished it. He's taking his conditioning as seriously as he ever has, and it appears to be working.

He's reminded of his age every year when he returns to the locker room at this time and sees all the changes to the faces surrounding him.

That "part of the business" stays the same, but this year as free-agent additions Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks join fourth-year pro Richard Rodgers at tight end, Rodgers can only ponder the possibilities for the Packers' offense.

"It'll be fun to see how it all shakes out," he said. "I'm excited about Richard as well. He's improved every year for us. Having those three guys is special. We haven't had a group like that in a long time with the versatility and the athleticism, and the ability to make plays.

"It's a highly intelligent group football IQ-wise, so I'm looking forward to the conversations with those guys and getting on the same page."

Rodgers envisions the offense using more two-tight-end sets than in recent years, a personnel group he sees as more "run-pass balanced" than the Packers' more common three-receiver set.

Giving Ty Montgomery a full offseason as a running back and having fullback Aaron Ripkowski take on more of a leadership role with that position group are two other pieces to the evolution Rodgers views as positive.

Just how the offense evolves will be revealed to the players over the next nine weeks, through workouts and OTAs, before the last offseason break prior to training camp.

"We'll dive in here in a few weeks into the playbook and what (the coaches) have in store," receiver Jordy Nelson said.

"When you can get as many threats on the field, to space it out, to make the defense worry about different situations, different positions on the field, it causes problems. What it does is allow us to create great matchups, and we're all looking forward to it."

As for replacing Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang following his free-agent departure to Detroit, Rodgers said drafting a new starter isn't absolutely necessary.

He sees the pending competition among veteran Don Barclay, 2016 sixth-round pick Kyle Murphy, and practice-squad holdover Lucas Patrick as one that could take a while to decide.

"We're going to need to figure out who that guy is, in time, but give them opportunities to jell together," Rodgers said of the linemen. "We're going to need that guy to step in and be productive from Day 1."

Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari doesn't see that as a problem, just as it wasn't last year when Lane Taylor jumped in at left guard in the opener.

"We have such a good foundation and core to begin with, I'm not going to worry about it at all," Bakhtiari said.

Following Rodgers' lead, there's far more excitement than worry amongst the Packers' veteran mainstays when it comes to the offensive side of the ball.

"I like our squad," Rodgers said. "It's going to be about building that cohesion together and that chemistry, in the locker room and then on the field. We have to make some leaps and bounds this offseason and obviously into training camp.

"I said it a while back, but I feel we're going to be really tough to stop on offense."

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