GREEN BAY—Aaron Rodgers repeated on Tuesday a phrase he used as OTAs began two weeks ago, that this Packers team has a “different feel” to it.
Rodgers also expounded on that thought in a way that should pump up the fan base.
“You sense the hunger that we have, which is exciting,” Rodgers said following a workout at a breezy Ray Nitschke Field.
“I’m probably more excited for this season than I’ve been in a long time because of the attitude I see from this team and just the young talent that we have. If we can put it all together, it could be pretty exciting around here.”
For Rodgers, that excitement in part is generated by seeing the mix of young draft picks with veteran acquisitions like Julius Peppers on the field together. More specific to the offense he runs, Rodgers is also fired up about his receiving corps.
Beyond the top three of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin, Rodgers has seen second-round pick Davante Adams make his share of plays this spring. He also mentioned the strong start from Chris Harper, until a tweaked hamstring forced Harper to sit out on Tuesday.
The competition shaping up amongst them, rookie draft picks Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis, plus holdovers Myles White, Kevin Dorsey and Alex Gillett will be one of the top storylines of training camp.
“It might not be the big names we’ve had in the past when we had the whole stable of guys,” Rodgers said, referring to the two years that Nelson and Cobb played alongside Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones. “But I think you can definitely see us keeping six guys in that position because we are a pretty deep group.
“Really spots four through six, potentially, it’s pretty wide open.”
Unspoken there is that Boykin will be difficult to unseat for that third spot, which he assumed for 10 games last season when Cobb was injured.
“No pressure at all,” Boykin said of the increased expectations. “I’ve been playing football for 24 years. This is what I love to do. I’m going to do whatever I can to excel. I’ll just keep working, and nothing’s different.
“Don’t get complacent, don’t get content, keep pushing.”
The push is coming from all directions. Cobb said his long absence last season “re-lit a fire” in him, while the rookies have shown a dedication to the playbook that has prompted Head Coach Mike McCarthy to comment on the “maturity” of this team and how much farther along it is at this stage.
Rodgers has played a part in that, picking his spots to educate the young route-runners on the finer points of the offense.
“He helps everyone,” rookie tight end Richard Rodgers said. “He’ll really quiz you on little things. He puts his trust in us to run the right routes and make the right reads and blocks, so when he talks to us, it’s about little stuff and what we need to be alert for on certain plays.”
The pass-catching Rodgers continued to catch on Tuesday, hauling in one quick throw from Rodgers and another from Scott Tolzien with a nifty adjustment along the sideline on a ball that fluttered a bit in the wind.
Plays like that have led the starting quarterback to term “laughable” that draft experts graded the Cal tight end a late sixth-round pick, given the talent he’s displayed thus far.
“It’s helmets and shorts, but you have to be excited about his body type and the hands,” Rodgers the QB said of the 6-4, 257-pound tight end the Packers selected in the third round. “He’s made some incredible catches, makes it look easy. I think he’s really going to push for playing time if he can transfer what he’s done in the spring now into the fall.”
Therein lies the rub, with pads yet to go on and the regular-season opener nearly three full months away.
The veteran team leader and former league MVP is fully in tune with that, but if he ratcheted up the hype for the 2014 Packers on Tuesday and created a Super-Bowl-or-bust mentality, so be it.
“That’s how we like it,” he said. “This is Titletown. This is why they pay us the way they pay us. There’s expectation to win and win now. We feel it. As an older player, you feel it even more.
“This is a great opportunity for us. It’s a combination of team chemistry and staying healthy, and then playing the right way at the right time. That’s what we did in 2010, and we’ve got to get back there.” Additional coverage - June 10 OTA