GREEN BAY – For all the talk about Aaron Rodgers maybe playing quarterback differently now that he’s coming back from a second broken collarbone, the two-time MVP was having none of it.
Asked after the Packers’ second OTA practice of the spring whether he plans to rethink his game in terms of protecting himself more on extended, out-of-pocket plays, Rodgers simply gave a one-word answer.
Which pretty much ended that discussion, other than Rodgers emphasizing his desire to play every game. He’s just not going to change how he plays in order to accomplish that.
“I have the same motivations I always have, and that’s to be a great player, to be reliable, to be consistent and to be available, to be on the field for all 16 games,” he said.
Rodgers has done that six times in his 10 years as a starter, including the year after his first broken collarbone, when he won his second MVP. Two other years he started 15 games, missing one in 2010 due to a concussion and another the following year as a healthy scratch for rest prior to the playoffs.
The two outliers are the collarbone seasons of 2013 and ’17, but he made it clear he doesn’t see those types of injuries as anything he can control, so he’s not going to compromise his game to try.
He’s dealing with some adjustments already to the playbook rewritten by Head Coach Mike McCarthy and returning offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, but he didn’t sound overly concerned about those, either.
“It’s not wholesale changes,” Rodgers said. “It’s just some new concepts and some new verbiage, so it’s just a little extra study time.”
He’s also putting in the requisite time to get new tight end Jimmy Graham up to speed. This marks the third straight year Rodgers is incorporating a new No. 1 tight end into the offense, and while the acclimation won’t happen overnight, he’s eager to get there.
“The guy is pretty damn talented,” Rodgers said of Graham, whose 10 touchdown catches last year in Seattle give him four career seasons with double-digit TDs. “He’s got some different elements we haven’t had around here in a while, with his ability to read coverages very quickly, catches everything with his hands. So we’re pretty excited about him.”
Take a look inside Green Bay's organized team activities at Ray Nitschke Field. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com.
As for the crop of new wide receivers – the Packers chose three on the third day of the draft last month in J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown – Rodgers said it’s too early to tell, because he’s had only one or two throws to them so far in 11-on-11 work.
He noted Brown making a play on a deep ball from his former teammate and QB at Notre Dame, DeShone Kizer, the other day, and those are the types of moments that can help young players climb the ladder.
“They’re bigger guys that can run, but the key is, like we’ve always said here with young receivers, you have to put yourself in a position to get reps with me and then be very sound on your assignment and make some plays,” Rodgers said. “That’s how you get a chance to get out there and play (with the first string).”
Rodgers might actually be in a better position to evaluate the team’s defensive rookies, with the top two picks in cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson taking more snaps with Rodgers on the field than the rookie receivers.
At corner, Rodgers is intrigued by what he’s seen so far. He mentioned some early impressive moments from Demetri Goodson, who is returning from a long injury layoff. With veterans Tramon Williams and Davon House coming back, Kevin King a rising talent and the two high draft picks, Rodgers believes “that position went from a need to a strength,” and he’ll be challenging just how strong the group really is.
“I told them I’m coming after them,” Rodgers said of the rookie corners. “They’re talented guys, different players. Jaire is extremely athletic and Josh is more of an instincts guy, but they’re talented guys.
“Corner is going to be a really interesting position.”