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Aaron Rodgers likes what he sees in new tight ends

Packers QB appreciates the veteran presence at the position


GREEN BAY - It took all of one snap in red-zone work on Monday for Aaron Rodgers to connect with tight end Jimmy Graham for a roughly 20-yard touchdown.

The opening play of 11-on-11 set the tone for a busy OTA day for Graham and, to a lesser extent, Marcedes Lewis, the newer arrival at tight end.

With Graham at 6-foot-7, 265 pounds and Lewis at 6-6, 267, it's impossible not to notice them in the huddle or running routes, and that goes for Rodgers as well.

"They're bigger," Rodgers said following Monday's workout. "It's fun to see us bring in some guys of that size.

"It's nice having veteran players around like that, who have been around, know the game. There's not a lot of teaching moments. There's some getting-on-the-same page moments."

For the second straight year, the Packers have revamped their tight end corps, and Graham, Lewis and Lance Kendricks at the top of the depth chart give the Packers significantly more experience at the position than they've had in a while. The trio has played a combined 27 years in the league.

Judging by Monday's action, it hasn't taken long for Graham to find some chemistry with Rodgers, so Lewis could follow suit quickly. Rodgers won't hesitate putting their veteran know-how and savvy to good use on the field. Their influence off the field will be felt as well.

"They've got a good presence about them," Rodgers said. "They've been in locker rooms before. They have kind of a natural leadership ability, by just going about their business in a professional manner.

"It's going to be fun to try and find ways to get those two and Lance in the game and in good positions to make plays."

The presence of the big tight ends also could help one of Rodgers' smaller pass-catchers, stature-wise, in Randall Cobb. A huge target like Graham in one slot could open things up for a multi-dimensional weapon like Cobb in the other.

Status-wise, Rodgers still views Cobb as a big part of the offense, even though his numbers have been down over the last two seasons. As evidence, the quarterback pointed to the playoff opener against the Giants two seasons ago, when Cobb stepped in after missing most of the previous three games and had a game-changing performance in the wake of Jordy Nelson's broken ribs.

"He came off some injuries, a disappointing season filled with multiple injuries, and had three touchdowns," Rodgers said. "Obviously one was a Hail Mary, but he had two other really nice plays for us in a big game.

"I look for a resurgence from him this year, as long as he can stay healthy."

As for his ongoing contract negotiations, Rodgers had nothing to report. He joked there are bound to be speculative stories about the progress or content of negotiations, but he's not going to get caught up in it.

He also didn't specify if he has any particular timeline in mind he wants or needs the deal to get done.

"That's why I've got my agent," he said. "He's handling the conversations. I've got two years left on my deal. I don't have a drop-dead date. I expect to play at an MVP-caliber level this year, like I do every year, and I'm not worried about it."

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