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Packers QB Aaron Rodgers describes 'best practice of camp'

Team battles through competitive 11-on-11 work before weekend break

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – When Head Coach Matt LaFleur pondered whether or not to play the Packers' starters in a preseason game and ultimately decided it wasn't worth the injury risk, he had a Plan B.

That plan was carried out in Wednesday's practice, the team's first after roster cuts but last before an extended weekend break.

LaFleur structured the 11-on-11 periods like a game, with four "quarters" of first units going against one another, as well as second units, plus special-teams reps sprinkled in between.

The media was not allowed to watch, but afterward, quarterback Aaron Rodgers described some of the action and felt the benefits were numerous.

"It was the best practice of camp," Rodgers said. "For us older guys, it was like a preseason game. Conditioning-wise, I wish we would've done a couple more of those. It was basically like a game.

"I really liked that Matt brought that up. It was a good idea, good practice."

LaFleur didn't get into the specifics of his motivation for the different workout, but pushing the players before their upcoming rest period made sense timing-wise. Getting blown out in Week 1 last year by the Saints after not playing any starters in the preseason might've factored into his thinking as well.

Whatever the case, Rodgers considered it a good day for the offense, which had taken its lumps against the Packers' defense at times during training camp.

He noted receiver Sammy Watkins having a strong practice, with tight end Robert Tonyan and receiver Randall Cobb both catching TD passes from him.

He added that running back AJ Dillon controlled one drive with four pass receptions out of the backfield, two of them on throws Rodgers admitted weren't that good. Tonyan caught a TD pass from QB Jordan Love with the second unit as well.

"Bobby being out there is a difference-maker," Rodgers said, referring to Tonyan's recent return to 11-on-11 reps from his ACL rehab regimen. "He just instinctually has a different feel."

Even though he felt the offense won the day, Rodgers still remains bullish on the prospects for the Packers' defense. During the two-minute drill in particular, he attacked Joe Barry's stout unit the way he feels most opposing offenses will operate, targeting outside linebacker Rashan Gary as a player to pay attention to at all times.

"Our protection was 'slide to his side' just because he's such a game-wrecker," Rodgers said. "Preston (Smith) is a fantastic player on one side, but we gotta slow down (number) 52 and offenses are gonna have to have a plan for him."

Cobb ended that two-minute drill with a TD catch on a deep corner route, according to Rodgers, who feels the receiving corps' most veteran player has really come on strong in practice over the past week or so.

"We had a lot of guys making a lot of plays," Cobb said. "We were dialed in on the communication. That's what you want to see, especially in a practice that's right before three days off, really having that laser focus, having that competition that we had today, and really getting out there and making it kind of game-like for us."

Cobb felt it was a good day to start the transition to regular-season preparation, cranking up the intensity and urgency before the full-fledged focus begins on Minnesota, Green Bay's Week 1 foe.

Rodgers even suggested in the future sprinkling in more practices like this one throughout training camp would be a good idea.

"I still think the way we do preseason with the ones is the right way to do it," he said. "This is, in my opinion, better than when you bring another team in and practice because we get more conditioning this way. It's good work as long as there's no fights against those teams, but this is better work."

Former Packers safety Morgan Burnett, who ceremonially retired as a Packer this week, joined the team for practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.