GREEN BAY—Aaron Rodgers won’t have Randall Cobb to throw to this week, and he may not have James Jones.
But that doesn’t mean Rodgers believes all he’ll have to attack the Cleveland Browns through the air is Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley.
If he can go to his proven veterans, he will, but whether it’s fourth receiver Jarrett Boykin, fourth tight end Brandon Bostick, or former practice-squad players Myles White and Jake Stoneburner out there running routes on Sunday at Lambeau Field, Rodgers won’t hesitate to get them involved.
“I think it’s exciting that those guys get their opportunity,” Rodgers said. “I remember when I was a young player working on the scout team, my biggest thrill was to see those guys raised up to the active roster, because I knew what they could do in practice. I’ll be throwing them the football if they’re out there, and they’ll be ready to play.”
Rodgers recalled from his early years how young unknowns like running back Samkon Gado and receiver Ruvell Martin got their chances to shine, and did. Perhaps the spotlight finds someone like that on Sunday.
With Jones’ status iffy – Mike McCarthy said more will be known on Friday – and tight end Ryan Taylor now out at least a couple of weeks after unexpectedly undergoing knee surgery, the Packers very well could need a key play from an aforementioned new guy.
They got one last Sunday from Boykin when he took a quick screen and weaved through traffic for 43 yards. That came after some struggles getting on the same page with Rodgers, including a third-down drop, but Rodgers kept going to Boykin.
“It helped me bounce back a little bit, confidence-wise,” Boykin said.
It’s that kind of faith from the quarterback that could pay off. Rodgers reiterated that all players are expected to be mentally prepared and ready for their chance, and McCarthy volunteered that White made a “big-time catch” in the red zone in practice on Wednesday on a back-shoulder throw from Rodgers.
“This is an offense where you want to be at the right place at the right time, because Aaron is going to find you,” said White who, like Stoneburner, is on the active roster for the first time but was with the team all through the preseason and knows the system.
“You don’t have to shorten your routes or do anything sporadic. You just do what they tell you, and it’ll all work out.”
Stoneburner could be called upon to fill Taylor’s role on special teams moreso than on offense, with three healthy tight ends in front of him. Either way, he says he’ll be ready.
“It’s not necessarily seamless, because now you’re on the big stage. The team is depending on you,” Stoneburner said. “But I’ve been here for awhile. I’ve got a good feel. I don’t feel like I’ll be overwhelmed when I’m out there.”
Rookie outside linebackers Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer said the same thing. They were the only two healthy players at their position in Wednesday’s practice, with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry out, and Mike Neal resting a bruised shoulder.
McCarthy said Perry may be out only a couple of weeks, while Neal isn’t expected to get any on-field work until Friday at the earliest.
The thinning ranks among the pass catchers and pass rushers have made it difficult to game plan and prepare so far this week.
“It was not a lot of fun,” McCarthy said of the roster shuffling the past couple of days. “It’s been a busy 48 hours, clearly. A lot of planning for different scenarios and things like that. Obviously, personnel groups on both sides of the ball are stressed.
“No one is overreacting.”
Amidst the difficulties, McCarthy mixed seriousness with humor in front of the media, explaining the team’s theme for the week is to “keep calm and carry on.”
“For you historians, you’ll probably appreciate that,” he said of the mantra. “It’s (from) 1939, issued by the British government right before World War II in anticipation of the bombing of major cities.
“I practiced it like all night.”
He also took off the wall from his house a framed sign featuring the theme, which he showed to the team in their Wednesday meeting. Consider the message read and understood.
“It’s during these tough times that your character is revealed,” Rodgers said. Additional coverage - Oct. 16