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Aaron Rodgers returns to spotlight at Packers minicamp

MVP QB discussed rookie receivers, offensive changes and career decisions following Tuesday’s practice

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers shared two key thoughts regarding the young receivers he's getting to know for the first time.

He also reiterated his career is one-year-at-a-time at this point, and he plans to finish it in Green Bay.

Rodgers made the comments Tuesday after the opening practice of mandatory minicamp, his first public appearance in Green Bay this offseason.

Regarding the rookie receivers, particularly high draft picks Christian Watson (second round) and Romeo Doubs (fourth round), Rodgers stressed the expectations for them must be "reasonable" as the Packers move on at the position without Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

In Rodgers' mind, the offense's top three receivers right now are Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and veteran newcomer Sammy Watkins, whom Rodgers is excited about. "He looks the part," Rodgers said after the two had a productive day together.

The three proven players come first, and the rest will sort themselves out in time as they compete and learn the pro game.

"I like production over potential," Rodgers said. "We have some production. We have a lot of potential. So we need to temper expectations and heighten the accountability. I think that's the most important thing for those guys. There's guys who've done some things in the league and there's guys that haven't."

He also said, for all the outside discussion about whether he should've been here for more than just this week's minicamp to work with the rookies, their priority needs to be the playbook, not who's throwing the ball to them. He added that Cobb's voice and guidance in the receiver room is as valuable as his own at this early stage.

"The most important thing for the young guys right now is to learn the offense, and like I've said many times there's two offenses," Rodgers said. "There's the offense on paper and then there's the offense that gets run on the field.

"They need to learn the offense on paper first, and once they get that down, then we'll have plenty of time in training camp to get the other offense down."

Rodgers is enjoying being back with his teammates this week, but he appreciates the latitude the team has given him at this stage of his career to prepare himself physically and mentally for a new season on his own.

There's been a lot for him to process mentally over the last few months, from deciding to continue his career, to Adams' departure, to all the changes on the offensive coaching staff. Seeing his longtime position coach Tom Clements back in Green Bay helps make "everything OK" as he gears up for what promises to be a different Packers offense in 2022.

He pointed to the running back duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon getting more involved in the passing game, and tight ends Tyler Davis and Josiah Deguara pushing for more playing time as Robert Tonyan rehabs his knee injury, as examples of adjustments in the works without Adams.

"Yeah, the offense has to change," he said. "When you have a guy who's that talented, it's probably not an exaggeration to say that 80% of the plays in the passing game were designed specifically for 17, so we're obviously gonna do some things a little different."

As for himself, he believes he'll "definitely" finish his career with the Packers now after signing a contract extension this offseason, but he still looks at the decision whether or not to continue playing as an annual one.

The Green Bay Packers held their first practice of minicamp at Ray Nitschke Field on Tuesday, June 7, 2022.

He does think about retirement and what might be next for him in life, but that doesn't diminish his commitment to the upcoming season. Communication in that regard has been clear with General Manager Brian Gutekunst, Head Coach Matt LaFleur, Clements and others.

"When I said I'm back, I'm 100 percent invested," Rodgers said. "When I'm here, I'm all in, and those guys know that. They know what to expect from me, the type of play, the type of leadership, and that's what they're going to get."

The two-time reigning, and four-time overall, league MVP truly doesn't know how he'll feel after this year, but one thing he won't do is announce in advance of any given season how much longer he plans to play.

He explained that thoughts of playing multiple years could change if "a magical season ends with a championship," allowing him to exit on top, while a so-called final year might not feel so final if it ends with a "bitter taste" and the drive and passion to compete remain.

"I've never been one to want some sort of going-away season or anything like that," he said. "Plus, I don't think it's fair to the mental state at the end of the season … I just don't want to get pigeonholed into it.

"So I'm focused on this season. I'm never gonna drag it out in the offseason. The conversations I've had with Brian have been very honest and direct, and that's not going to change, and we'll sit down after the season, hopefully after a championship and figure out what the next step is."

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