GREEN BAY – Jordan Love is another year older and another year wiser.
As the Packers kicked off organized team activities this week, the third-year quarterback is feeling more comfortable and confident guiding Green Bay's offense in two-time defending NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers' stead.
Like last spring, the keys to the offense are again in Love's hands. While it's expected Rodgers will rejoin the Packers here at some point during the offseason program, Love has enjoyed getting the chance to once again sit in the driver's seat.
"I think it's just being comfortable with the plays, really," Love said. "Just being able to learn and grow in that offense and then obviously being able to recognize defenses, recognize coverages and going against our defense for the second year with Coach (Joe) Barry here, you kind of get more comfortable seeing things and knowing what they're going to do. It's just really learning in those reps."
Love has had a unique QB apprenticeship in Green Bay. After being drafted in the first round out of Utah State in 2020, Love's first offseason in Green Bay was mostly derailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the NFL canceling its physical offseason program and the entire preseason, almost all Love's on-field work as a rookie came during a truncated training camp. He was not active in a regular-season game.
It was the complete opposite scenario last year at this time, as Love took nearly all the offensive reps with Rodgers sitting out of OTAs and minicamp. Love handed the offense back to Rodgers in training camp but saw action in two preseason games and a Week 9 regular-season matchup with Kansas City.
The young quarterback feels the totality of his in-game experiences have helped expand his offensive vocabulary. With all the No. 1 reps at his disposal, Love is relishing his opportunity to lead.
"I think Jordan's doing a great job of really taking ownership of this offense," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur before practice on Tuesday. "It's a great opportunity for him. He hasn't probably gotten the number of reps that I don't think anybody would like. So, it's just maximizing those opportunities and he's got a great opportunity to get the majority of the reps out there throughout the course of OTAs."
Love welcomed a new position coach this spring with the venerable Tom Clements returning to Green Bay to replace quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy, who was hired as the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator this offseason.
In addition to overseeing Rodgers' development from a first-round prospect to multiple-time NFL MVP, Clements spent two seasons working with former No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray.
With the offseason vastly different in today's NFL than when Rodgers was in Year 3, Clements is looking to make every rep count with Love this spring.
"Just trying to become more familiar with the offense where you don't have to think about it as much, it clicks," said Clements last week. "I know he got most of the reps once we start doing the team reps. He got most of them last year, he'll get most of them this year, so getting reps against a defense is beneficial to anybody's growth."
Love had some big moments last spring, including a stellar showing during mandatory minicamp last June. He parlayed that momentum into a steady preseason debut, completing 24-of-35 passes for 271 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
Love then made his NFL regular-season debut on short notice, with Rodgers being placed on the COVID-19/reserve list prior to the Kansas City game in Week 9.
While Love had an up-and-down day (190 passing yards, one TD and an INT) in the 13-7 loss to the Chiefs, it proved to be an invaluable experience. Those who have played with Love already can see a difference with the 23-year-old quarterback.
"I think the confidence is there," receiver Randall Cobb said. "Just watching him process things a little bit quicker than he had before. I always thought he threw a great ball, but it's all about doing it with a defense in front of you and putting it in tight windows."
After signing an extension with the team in March, Rodgers has spent most of his offseason training on his own. Love is expected to continue to take the first-team reps this week, but the Packers are expecting Rodgers back at some point.
LaFleur said he's been in steady contact with Rodgers. The two actually spoke Monday night, with LaFleur providing his quarterback with an overview of where the team was with its installs.
"Just to kind of update him on just where we are, like we do every offseason," LaFleur said. "There's always tweaks to what you're doing. But he's in great spirits and it was a great conversation."
The Green Bay Packers held practice on Tuesday, May 24 at Ray Nitschke Field for the start of Organized Team Activities.
Love was happy when he heard the news of Rodgers' extension. He's also aware of how closely his situation mirrors that of Rodgers, who sat for three seasons behind Brett Favre before getting his chance to be a full-fledged starter.
OTAs were a big part of that process for Rodgers, who often filled in as the No. 1 QB while Favre was away from the team. While he doesn't know what his own future holds, Love is focused on improving and controlling what he can control.
For now, that's leading the Packers' offense to the best of his ability until Rodgers is back in the fold.
"I'm still going to do my job, and I'd compete to be that guy if he is here or if he isn't here," Love said. "He's not here right now, so I'm getting all those (No.) 1 reps. I look at it as, I'm the guy right now. That's how I look at it."