|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
"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.
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
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
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.
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
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.