GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers “looked pretty good” in his return to practice on Monday, according to Head Coach Matt LaFleur.
More important, according to Rodgers, he “felt pretty good,” too.
Rodgers certainly hopes the highly cautious approach taken with the tightness in his back, which was to sit out last Thursday’s preseason game in Baltimore and Sunday’s practice, has put the unexpected ailment behind him. His back started bothering him last Wednesday, and several days of rest and treatment have it feeling much better.
He looked no worse for wear at Ray Nitschke Field on Monday, taking his usual reps with the No. 1 offense in a competitive third-down period and in some no-huddle and two-minute work. The operation looked much more crisp than it did Sunday in his absence.
“You could definitely feel his energy,” LaFleur said. “It was evident.”
As for whether Rodgers would get his first preseason action of 2019 on Thursday in Winnipeg against the Raiders, General Manager Brian Gutekunst said Monday he’d like to see him play, but he wouldn’t be overly worried if he didn’t. LaFleur remained noncommittal as well as unconcerned.
Rodgers echoed that, reiterating thoughts he’s expressed in the past about the greater value of practice, when Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is challenging him and the offense schematically to a much greater degree than preseason opponents will. That’s exactly what Pettine did in an entire period of third-down passing situations Monday, which was the highlight of the workout.
“The looks we see on a day like today are invaluable reps,” Rodgers said. “It’s an attacking defense. It’s different fronts, it’s different pressures.
“The best reps I’m going to see all summer are in practice. If Matt wants us to play, we’ll play and go out and compete. If not, I feel pretty good about where we’re at.”
Through the unscripted 11-on-11 practice periods the Packers have run over the past couple of weeks, Rodgers has grown comfortable with the communication from LaFleur as the play-caller. He’s also gained greater knowledge of the system as a whole as his understanding of the concepts and philosophies behind it has progressed.
That foundation was laid in the spring, and the mechanics of all the formations and checks have come along this summer. To Rodgers and LaFleur alike, running a few basic plays against an opponent isn’t going to materially affect anything before the games actually count.
“If we didn’t play, I’d feel great going into Week 1. If we did, I wouldn’t really be worried too much about the results,” Rodgers said. “If we go down and score a touchdown, it’s not going to give me any more confidence than I already have in the scheme. If we go three-and-out, it’s not going to dampen any confidence I have in what we’ve established so far in the training camp practices.”
Whether or not Rodgers plays, running back Aaron Jones could make his preseason debut against the Raiders. LaFleur said he didn’t “need” to see Jones in a game, but he expressed a preference to get running backs at least some action when they haven’t been hit and forced to consciously protect the football for a long time.
Rodgers appreciated having Jones behind him in 11-on-11 for the first time since the early days of camp. The offense’s No. 1 back returned to full duty on Sunday after missing time as a precautionary measure for a tight hamstring, and Rodgers was glad to see him in the huddle Monday.
While Rodgers explained that the oft-mentioned “marriage of run and pass” in this offense is more about how things look than how much the unit actually runs the ball, it’s still the effectiveness of the run game that will factor in the overall efficiency. Jones’ presence gets the entire offense looking and feeling more like it should.
“I like the progress. Even more, I like it when I turn around and see ‘33’ in there and he’s making the cuts that we’re all used to seeing,” Rodgers said. “You saw a couple of them today. He just has that little extra gear.”
The Green Bay Packers held their final public practice of training camp on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019.