Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was back on the practice field on Tuesday and is expected to play, though briefly, in Thursday’s preseason finale against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs. How’s that for good news on which to end training camp?
“Aaron felt great today. Probably overreacting yesterday to him going through camp. I see no reason (for him) not to play on Thursday,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following Tuesday’s practice.
Rodgers was held out of practice on Monday due to a sore foot. McCarthy said Rodgers’ inactivity was precautionary, but anytime the quarterback is held out of practice, especially when it’s the reigning Super Bowl MVP, it’s news.
So, all seemed to be in order as the Packers broke camp, so to speak, on Tuesday. Once upon a time, when camps were longer and more rigorous, it was tradition for the head coach on the final day of camp to give a sort of state-of-the-team address that included a statement of expectation. This year’s camp, of course, was neither long nor rigorous.
“It’s the easiest one physically,” McCarthy said. “Practices are shorter. We’re practicing smarter. Last week, we definitely hit the target.”
As the Packers break camp and head into a preseason finale that’ll likely see the ones take a seat early and turn Lambeau into a field of dreams for young players trying to find a place in the NFL, they are on target for a season-opener of extraordinary importance. The Packers’ opponent will be the 2009 NFL champions, the New Orleans Saints, one of the favorites to unseat the Packers in the NFC.
Have the Packers already begun preparation for the Saints?
“Some of us, I think, have,” Rodgers said. “I like where we’re at. I like the no-huddle.”
The Packers are where they’re at largely because Rodgers is their quarterback. On the heels of a nearly five-month lockout, the Packers almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to hit McCarthy’s target without a quarterback of Rodgers’ esteem at the helm.
“We would not have as much in if we didn’t have a veteran quarterback. Our approach is clearly in line with our veterans. We’re still going to be a young team. That’s how our program is built,” McCarthy said.
In the Packers’ case, young doesn’t mean inexperienced. It would seem to be the advantage the Packers hold over most of the league. They have young legs that have already run to a championship.
“I feel we’re in good shape. Going no-huddle helped get our play count up. I feel good about where we are,” McCarthy said in what amounted to a mini state-of-the-team proclamation.
The Packers’ success in the no-huddle offense is one of the main stories of camp. Will the no-huddle become the team’s identity?
Rodgers said it wouldn’t. “It’s just got to be a wrinkle in the offense,” he added.
What kind of offense will Rodgers and company become in 2011?
“The ’09 season, when we led the league in time of possession, set the Packers record for points, set the Packers record for points on the road, that’s the blueprint for us. Last year, I think everybody would (say) that’s not the kind of offense we want to play,” Rodgers said.
Defenses bear the burden of deciding how to attack an offense that has shown it can play at a fast pace and move quickly down the field, or slow it down and protect a lead. Rodgers said he welcomes pressure. Atlanta tried to pressure the Packers in the playoffs and “we gashed them a little bit,” Rodgers said.
“We like it when teams bring pressure because if we can pick it up and I can deliver the ball, there’s more space,” he said.
In pronouncing himself and his offense fit and ready to go – he said that on paper it’s “the best group we’ve seen” – Rodgers also declared his concussions of a year ago to be of no concern.
“I’m past that. I recovered from them,” he said.
Yes, it would seem the Packers are where they need to be and ready to break camp.