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Aaron Rodgers pinpoints Packers' identity

A tight, collective unit has been forged by veterans simply doing their part

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – The Packers have won games so many different ways in 2019, no one really knows how they're going to win their next one.

The defense led the way in September, the offense got rolling in October, fits and starts bogged things down in November, and Green Bay handled the elements better in the first game of December.

If that sounds like an identity crisis three-quarters of the way through a season, count quarterback Aaron Rodgers among the unconcerned. He shared his take on the Packers' 2019 identity after Wednesday's practice, and he focused much more on personalities and attitudes than schemes and play calls.

"I think the identity is 'embracing your role.' I really do," Rodgers said. "I've talked about Marcedes (Lewis), or Jimmy (Graham), or Kyler Fackrell, or Blake Martinez, or Jamaal Williams, or Geronimo Allison, there's been a lot of guys who've really had to embrace a specific role this year, and I think the beauty in seeing the chemistry of the team and the personality of the team has been the response of those guys."

The list of players Rodgers rattled off wasn't at random. They're veterans who all have experienced a certain level of individual success in the NFL that isn't necessarily being matched or exceeded this year. Also, all but Martinez are not really every-down players but part-timers sharing snaps with others at their positions.

As veterans, they're also leaders to a certain extent, as Lewis and Graham have been to Pro Bowls, Fackrell hit double digits in sacks last year, Williams had 100-plus yards from scrimmage three straight games as a rookie, and Allison was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before he got hurt last year.

Yet none of them is talking about those types of accolades this year on a team that's 9-3, Green Bay's best record at this stage since 2014, long before any of them were Packers. They've bought into what new Head Coach Matt LaFleur is building and where the team is going without regard to "stats or ego," according to Rodgers.

"It's been an embracing of the challenge and of the responsibility," he said. "I think with that responsibility comes a lot of accountability as well. And I think guys have embraced their roles and I think it's made us collectively a lot tighter group and a better team."

As for how the Packers are going to emerge victorious in that next game, Sunday against Washington at Lambeau Field, LaFleur put it pretty simply: "We're going to do whatever it takes to win."

The comment was both flippant and truthful, as well as a reflection of LaFleur's approach in his first year being much more about the culture within the team than the playbooks it's using.

General Manager Brian Gutekunst executed what ranks as the biggest roster overhaul in one offseason since Ted Thompson's early years at the helm. Free agency in March and the draft in April produced six new full-time starters and other rotational players.

From there, LaFleur has led in his own way, establishing the roles for individuals and pushing them to maximize on everything they can bring to that role.

"I think he set the vision from Day 1 when he got here," Rodgers said. "He had a simple set of rules and there's an expectation of doing your part. I think he's empowered people to give more of themselves and as they've given more of themselves, I think there's been a natural calm that's come over the team."

A calm that has diminished concerns about exactly how they're going to win, but rather instilled a belief that they'll find a way.

Sure, LaFleur might prefer to know exactly what he can count on from his offense and defense any given week, and what the team can hang its hat on X's and O's-wise to get an edge. But he's not sweating some of that uncertainty, because he has a culture that's working.

"When guys are more relaxed, guys are more confident, guys are more themselves," Rodgers said. "I give him and the leadership of the football team a lot of credit for that."