GREEN BAY – The anticipation of just what it’s going to look like continues to build.
The Packers’ offense under new Head Coach Matt LaFleur and quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers has yet to be seen heading into Thursday’s season opener at Chicago. It’s almost showtime now.
An accomplished Bears defense will have something to say about how opening night goes, but as Green Bay’s two-time MVP expressed his respect for an opposing unit without “any holes” in it, he also conveyed two types of excitement on his side following Sunday’s practice.
He’s clearly jazzed up about running something new for the first time in his 12 years as a starting quarterback, and he’s also excited about what the offense could accomplish as the year rolls along.
“When they play Green Bay, it’s not just what they’ve seen for years – which was tough to stop,” Rodgers said. “Now we’re throwing new things at them with personnel groupings and motions and alignments and movement and adjustments that they haven’t seen from us.
“I’m obviously really hopeful that we’re going to go out and play really well, but I do feel like this is just the beginning for this offense and there’ll be a lot of room to grow.”
While the banter with the media at Rodgers’ locker was pretty typical for a few days before kickoff, top wideout Davante Adams said Rodgers’ demeanor shifted into his ultra-competitive mode when he arrived Sunday to start the week of concentrated preparation on the Bears.
Adams described it as the normal change he witnesses from the spring to training camp to Week 1. The conversations with the QB are different. They get more detailed, more urgent, with more references to the past. It’s as though he’s warming up his in-game brain leading up to Thursday at Soldier Field.
“I’ve definitely seen the switch today,” Adams said. “I’ve seen the antenna’s up. It’s always a laser focus, but it heightens a little bit. From me being around here six years now, I can tell the difference. He’s ready to go.”
Joking that the transformation is more mental than physical due to Rodgers’ age, Adams explained it’s geared toward everyone he comes in contact with picking up a new vibe and intensity.
The Packers held their first official practice of the regular season in preparation for Thursday’s opener in Chicago.
“He comes over talking to us about different things, … small, small things that may come up. But you can just see the wheels turning in his head,” Adams said. “It’s a big computer in there, so he’s reaching for things from 2012, 2015, whatever. Just talking about different looks from different teams that the D-coordinator has been on.
“So you start seeing that Aaron, you know it’s time.”
A Chicago defense that led the league in takeaways in 2018 and scored six touchdowns, while also ranking first in the league in points allowed, first against the run, and third in total yards, lost coordinator Vic Fangio to the head coaching job in Denver. Chuck Pagano has taken over, but other than that, there’s not a lot of change from a year ago.
Former Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is in the Bears’ back end now alongside former Alabama teammate Eddie Jackson, but the front seven still features Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith, among others. Rodgers also feels the Bears have a number of good players who aren’t big names.
“I think whether it’s Vic calling it or Coach Pagano there’s a lot of things you can do with that personnel,” Rodgers said.
The Packers feel the same way about their own collection of players, headlined by Rodgers, Adams, running back Aaron Jones, and a seasoned offensive line, all of whom have been toiling away on LaFleur’s offense to get to what Rodgers called “the foundational start.”
As he stressed, it’ll be just the start, with a long season of progress ahead. But it’ll finally be for real.
“We’ve been working for a long time now, since April, with this group,” Adams said. “Definitely excited to unleash what we’ve been working on. It’s been kind of rated G a little bit so far throughout preseason, just so we don’t give away all of the goods. But we have a chance here to open it up pretty soon. So it’s definitely a good feeling.
"Hopefully we come like we’re shot out of a cannon, Week 1. But as you go, things definitely tend to get better."