GREEN BAY – When the outside world is full of noise, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers turn inward.
That’s the crux of the quarterback’s message in what became a longer-than-usual media session at Rodgers’ locker after practice on Wednesday.
Responding to questions about whether he does anything differently when struggles arise, or to suggestions that he might be motivated by criticism of his play and of the offense in general, Rodgers was blunt about where his focus is directed.
“I don’t care about that. I’m not worried about the outside expectations or scrutiny,” he said. “I’m worried about how my teammates are responding to me, I’m worried about how the plan is getting together each week, and I’m worried about my preparation. It’s worked over the years.
“I’ve played at a high level for a long time, so I’m not going to change anything.”
Rodgers didn’t spell out any five-letter commands for the fan base or deliver any grand plan to fix everything. No one has entered crisis mode. The team is just getting back to work.
He also didn’t shirk responsibility for the role he’s played in the rough start offensively. He called his three fumbles at Minnesota “frustrating” and acknowledged that the offense’s timing is simply off.
A passer rating of 82.6 through two games is 10 points lower than his mark for all of last season (92.7), which was the lowest of his career as a full-time starter. But he practically chuckled at the notion that this is “an end-of-the-world-type moment, (with) everything coming down on top of us.”
The struggles are being examined in the meeting room and worked on during practice. All involved are being “very honest” in evaluating their play, including the QB, who views that as part of being a team leader.
“It’s important to let those guys know that you’re going to stick your body on the line, but also you’re going to stand up for them when you need to in the locker room, in the meeting room and in the media, and take your responsibility for the way you played,” he said.
“I didn’t play as well as I wanted to last week. I turned the ball over twice, and I can’t do that if we’re going to win the game.
“I know I’ve got to play better, and I will.”
The faith in the ability to turn things around comes from within as well.
“It’s the guys in this locker room,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “We’ve done it before. We’ve had a lot of history together. We have confidence in one another.
“We won’t ever panic over one game or anything like that. We know we can do it, we’ve done it in the past, and it’s just getting in that rhythm that we’ve had before.”
In his second game back after missing all of 2015, Nelson said he felt better at Minnesota, rarely needing to come out of the game, and he feels he’s getting closer to being able to play “every snap possible.”
He added that the game film has shown the offensive opportunities being missed, but the least of anyone’s concerns is Rodgers, no matter how detailed or scathing the critique of his game.
“I know he has a very high standard for himself. I don’t think anyone will hold him higher than what he holds himself,” Nelson said. “I think that goes for a lot of guys in this locker room.
“It is a situation you put yourself in when you play as well as he has in the past. People expect perfection from him, but I don’t think he’s worried about it, and I don’t think anyone in here is worried about him.”
Fellow receiver Randall Cobb senses that Rodgers is “pretty focused” and “excited” for Sunday’s home opener vs. Detroit. Playing at home could be part of the antidote for the Packers’ offense, because communication is cleaner and Rodgers’ hard snap count comes back into play, and the players also feed off the energy of the home crowd.
Sunday’s home opener will be followed by the bye plus three more consecutive home contests.
“We’re not worried about the bye week now,” Cobb said. “It’s all about the Lions. We look forward to defending our home. We didn’t do a great job of that last year, especially in our division, losing three at home.”
Added Nelson: “If we win our home games, it gives us a strong opportunity to be in the playoffs. That’s where we need to start, and there’s no better opportunity than having four of them in a row, a perfect chance to get in a rhythm and get this thing rolling.”
Come Sunday, Green Bay’s last game at Lambeau Field will have been 38 days ago, but now the Packers have five weeks before they have to hit the road again.
It’s plenty of time to look inward, and keep the focus there, though the hope is the reason for doing so changes, beginning next week.
“It’s going to be a great stretch,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to be sticking around here for a while now, and we just have to take care of business.
“However we get it done, we just have to get a win.”
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