With eye on preparation, Rodgers sets tone at Packers camp

July 29, 2015

In this Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014 file photo, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) celebrates after sacking Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown during the second half of an NFL football game in Tampa, Fla.

GREEN BAY Break time is just about over for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Training camp is here.

Rodgers planned to tweak his training regimen and work out with some teammates in southern California during the offseason. Otherwise, the reigning NFL MVP was going to relax, with a plan that included playing catch-up on episodes of a favorite TV game show.

"I've still got to watch 'Jeopardy!' so it's not a total mental break," Rodgers said during minicamp last month.

At age 31 and in his prime, a healthy Rodgers always makes Green Bay an NFC contender. Heck, he's so good that the Packers won a fourth straight division title last year even with Rodgers' mobility limited by a calf injury.

Rodgers sets the tone with his meticulous preparation. Younger players, especially, must catch up quickly during offseason workouts and minicamp to get a head start on training camp.

"Everyone in this room understands that we're about winning. End of story," top receiver Jordy Nelson said. "It can be a lot of pressure on guys coming in understanding the level we've been at and the next step we need, to be consistent at winning the big games, and taking that extra step we weren't able to make last year."

Ah, last year. Taken as a whole, it was another successful season, with a trip to the NFC title game.


In this Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014 file photo, Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson (87) breaks a tackle by Buffalo Bills' Aaron Williams (23) during the second half of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y.

The ending to that game was a failure for Green Bay. The Packers blew leads of 16-0 at halftime and 19-7 early in the fourth quarter in a stunning 28-22 OT loss at Seattle to miss a trip to the Super Bowl. The Packers have vowed they're over it, and that they've learned their lessons.

Players report Wednesday and start practice the next day. A look at key story lines in Green Bay going into camp:

CLEANING UP: It was an uncharacteristically busy offseason off the field for the Packers, at least by the franchise's high standards. Defensive linemen Letroy Guion and Datone Jones, and tight end Andrew Quarless, each encountered on unrelated issues. The NFL has already suspended Jones for the season opener, while discipline could be looming from the league for Guion and Quarless. More clarity will help coach Mike McCarthy plan for contingencies, especially with the Seahawks looming in Week 2.

MAKING THE CALLS: McCarthy has relinquished play-calling duties in order to devote more time to overseeing defense, special teams and other aspects of the job. Tom Clements, promoted from offensive coordinator to associate head coach, will now call plays. The first preseason game on Aug. 13 at New England will provide the first glimpse how much the change is going to affect the offense. With Rodgers behind center, probably not much.


Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) scrambles against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of the NFL football NFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Seattle.

CASEY AT CB: The Packers let veteran cornerback Tramon Williams go in free agency, leaving the starting job opposite Sam Shields up for grabs. With up-and-comer Davon House also leaving as a free agent, Casey Hayward appears likely to get the first crack at the position. Hayward's snaps in camp will bear watching after the fourth-year player was limited in offseason workouts by a foot injury. He has also had a hamstring injury earlier in his career. When he's on the field, Hayward has shown promise as a playmaker.

ROOKIE DBs: Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt might be the busiest assistant in Packers camp, and not just because he's mentoring Hayward. The Packers took defensive backs in the first two rounds of the draft with Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. They'll help replenish depth and presumably add more athleticism on special teams.

GETTING SPECIAL: Speaking of special teams, McCarthy went in a new direction with the unit. It wasn't a particularly bright spot in recent years, and coordinator Shawn Slocum was let go after a Seahawks game which featured two glaring mistakes. Ron Zook, the former college head coach at Florida and Illinois, now heads special teams. On the positive note for the Packers, Mason Crosby remains one of the top kickers in the league. Rookie receiver Ty Montgomery, a third-round pick, bears watching as a returner after having success at Stanford.



Associated Press