Rodgers, Packers gets used to new faces and playbook tweaks
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers’ eventful offseason included a trip to India to see the spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and a pit stop to watch his girlfriend, race car driver Danica Patrick, at Daytona.
He also purchased a minority stake in the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
This week, it’s back to the practice field for the two-time NFL MVP.
On-field offseason workouts have started for the Green Bay Packers. They are especially important for a team that has had a lot of change since the end of a 7-9 season.
New general manager Brian Gutekunst cut longtime receiver Jordy Nelson; signed veteran tight end Jimmy Graham; and drafted three receivers all 6-foot-3 or taller. Former Packers assistant Joe Philbin is back as offensive coordinator. The playbook got a thorough review.
“Change can be really good ... any time you’re in a situation where you’ve had the same type of things going on for a number of years, it’s nice to change it up in some positions, yeah,” Rodgers said at Lambeau Field after practice.
Not to say that the loss of Nelson, a salary cap casualty, didn’t hurt. Nelson was a team leader. He was especially close to Rodgers, and fellow receivers Randall Cobb and Davante Adams.
“Honestly, it has nothing to do with this football team. He’s a good dude, and we built up a really good relationship over these last four years,” said Adams, who has assumed the role of the Packers’ No. 1 receiver.
As for the playbook, Adams calls the changes more a fine-tuning of what’s worked in the past.
“It’s kind of more of a mentality of how we’re attacking people. I love it,” Adams said. “As long as we keep to it, keep working at things and clean everything up, it’s going to be more dangerous (than) it’s been in the past.”
At the very least, the Packers hope they are in much better shape than 2017, when the offense struggled with Rodgers sidelined much of the season by a broken collarbone. After several weeks of classroom work, they were eager to take what they’ve learned out on the field.
“There’s a little bit of an ‘It’s-about-time feel to it,’” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said before practice.
In Philbin, McCarthy brought a reassuring presence back to the coaching staff.
Philbin was offensive coordinator from 2007-11 before leaving to take the Miami Dolphins head coaching job. He was the coordinator when Rodgers took over the starting job in 2008, and when the Packers won the Super Bowl two seasons later.
Rodgers calls Philbin a “fantastic teacher” who commands a room. Philbin said Rodgers is processing the game in his mind even faster now compared to when he last coached him in 2011.
Rodgers also remains a master at preparation. There is no better role model for backups Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer.
“From a preparation standpoint, he’s been excellent, both in the quarterback room and the unit room. He’s obviously got an outstanding command of what we’re doing, what we want to do,” Philbin said.
Off the field, he’ll get back to cheering on his girlfriend this weekend. Patrick is driving her final race at the Indy 500 on Sunday.
Rodgers said he watched from pit road for a while when Patrick was at Daytona in February. He’s hoping that Patrick can take the checkered flag at the Brickyard.
“She’s had a lot of success at Indy over the years,” Rodgers said. “I think several top 10s, hoping she goes out with a bang.”
NOTES: Asked about the possibility of the Packers adding receiver Dez Bryant, who was cut by the Cowboys, Rodgers said, “Well, we like young receivers. So I’m assuming that’s the way they’re going to keep going. I don’t know why you’d cut Jordy and bring in Dez, but he’s a talented player.” Besides taking three receivers in the draft, the Packers also have returnees Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis competing for more targets. “He’s going to end up somewhere” Rodgers said about Bryant. “If he ends up here, we’d obviously welcome him with open arms and get him up to speed as quick as possible.”