GREEN BAY – The process of getting in sync with Aaron Rodgers never stops for Jeff Janis, even when Rodgers isn’t around.
Janis expects his veteran quarterback to view film of the Packers’ three-day minicamp – from which 15 select veterans, including Rodgers, were excused – and have feedback for him sometime between now and the start of training camp.
Less thinking, more reacting is Rodgers’ goal for young offensive teammates like Janis, and the two-time MVP will know it when he sees it on video.
“When he doesn’t practice and he watches everything on the iPads, he’ll come up to me and say what (I) did on a certain route and what to expect,” Janis said after Tuesday’s workout at Ray Nitschke Field.
It’s those conversations, whenever they occur, that are invaluable for Janis as the speedy receiver heads into his third NFL season.
A fan favorite who performed admirably in a pinch in the Arizona playoff game last January, Janis is constantly working on building on-field trust with Rodgers, other teammates and the offensive coaching staff.
The hope is that he can do so and make the progress on offense in 2016 that he did on special teams in 2015, when he found his niche as one of the league’s top punt gunners. He finished last season with 15 special-teams tackles, second on the team.
“When you start making plays, whether it’s on special teams or offense, you kind of feel like you belong,” Janis said. “You feel like you’ve earned that respect from some guys.”
In practices open to the media this spring, Janis’ results have been mixed. Last week on a deep ball from Rodgers, he went up one-on-one against top cornerback Sam Shields and impressively came away with a deflected reception for a touchdown.
Then on Tuesday, Janis had two defenders beat deep but lost the handle on Brett Hundley’s on-target bomb as he went to the ground.
Those are just two moments over the past month of workouts, but Janis’ approach is to not let his confidence swing too high or too low at any given time.
“Things like that happen in football, and you just have to forget about it and move on to the next play,” Janis said of Tuesday’s drop. “If you carry it with you, it’s going to happen again, most likely. You just have to get it out of your head and keep playing.”
Coming from a Division II college program, Janis’ head has been filled with a lot of new information since arriving in Green Bay as a seventh-round draft pick in 2014. His physical gifts are obvious – a 6-3, 219-pound frame with speed to burn – but the mental side of his game is always under scrutiny because he’s had so much to learn.
New full-time receivers coach Luke Getsy said Janis doesn’t have to be taught the same thing twice, a strong sign he’s capable of fully realizing the potential that became the hottest of offseason topics following his seven-catch, 145-yard playoff performance against the Cardinals.
“A big part of telling if a guy can make it or not is, can he learn something new and it sticks? And it does,” Getsy said.
Janis emphasized it’s a new year, so he isn’t banking on one dynamite outing to get him anywhere in 2016, but having a game like that certainly mattered from a confidence standpoint.
As his learning curve has sped up, he’s also been able to focus more on the details regarding routes, checks and adjustments that come up in the meeting room when the receivers and QBs are together.
“When Aaron says something, you have to write that down and make sure you remember, because he says it for a reason,” Janis said. “You have to really pay attention to what he says.”
He won’t be getting any new notes from Rodgers this week, but he’ll hear from him eventually. These three days of reps mean just as much, if not more, with the veterans not around.
“You talk about being consistent and accountable and available and all those good things, this is his opportunity to do that, regardless if (number) 12 is here or not,” Getsy said. “Getting everybody else in the building excited about him is going to get 12 excited about you, too.”
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