Aaron Rodgers mentioned the word three times within the first couple of minutes he was speaking with reporters at his locker following Thursday’s opening training camp practice.
The word is consistency. He used it in reference to the focus of some individuals who have had up-and-down years. He also called it a goal of the Packers offense, which is looking to remain among the league’s elite.
Most importantly, Rodgers said it was Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s primary theme during Wednesday night’s team meeting. For a team as talented as the Packers, momentary lapses in execution and performance – such as what happened in last January’s playoff pratfall – are enemy No. 1.
“I think it’s just consistency, building off what we did last year and understanding what happened last year,” Rodgers said of McCarthy’s initial talk to the team on the eve of camp.
“We went through a great regular season, winning 15 games and doing a lot of things that hadn’t happened here in Green Bay before, and got knocked out in the first round. It makes you realize the only thing that matters is winning championships, and you have to win some playoff games to get there.”
As for the offense, which scored the second-most points in league history in 2011, Rodgers said certain situations such as red zone and third down were targets for improvement in 2012.
One specific challenge he mentioned was getting in sync with new veteran center Jeff Saturday, signed as a free agent from the Colts when Scott Wells departed. The process of building continuity and rapport began during the spring, but for Rodgers it will continue in earnest when the preseason games begin.
“I think it’s just a feel, and it’s going to be good to get some live game reps with him,” Rodgers said. “He’s done it for a long time so I don’t think he needs too much of a training camp to get ready to play, but I think we just need to make sure we’re seeing the game the same way.”
Rodgers added that he spoke with Saturday’s former quarterback, Peyton Manning, at the ESPY awards earlier this summer, and he told Manning his only regret is he won’t get to play with the 37-year-old Saturday for five or six years. Manning and Saturday started 170 games together, the most in league history by a QB-center tandem.
“It’s great having a guy with so much knowledge who’s been in a system that’s run some up-tempo stuff before in Indianapolis,” said Rodgers, who also noted that Saturday’s top backup, Evan Dietrich-Smith, has shown considerable improvement. “I think we’re going to have a great relationship.”
Saturday is the only notable new face on offense for the Packers in 2012, but there are far more new faces on defense. Rodgers doesn’t believe defensive coordinator Dom Capers is easing anybody into things, though, so the offense will be on its toes every day.
“Tricky Dom is always coming up with new schemes and trying to catch us off-guard in practice, so it’s going to be a good test for us,” Rodgers said. “It’s going to be fun to see those guys come together.”
One key to the revamped defense will be first-round draft pick Nick Perry, who said he shed six or seven pounds over the summer. Making the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, Perry is learning how to drop into pass coverage and read more of the field from a two-point stance.
“(Losing) a couple of pounds doesn’t hurt,” said Perry, who’s now listed at 265, down from 270-plus when he was drafted. “It’s been good. I’ll probably pick up a couple of more pounds along the way, but as long as I’m feeling comfortable, I feel like everything should be fine.
“I think they just want me to be fast and explosive. That’s the key.”
McCarthy said he tries to watch Perry when the defensive call has him dropping into coverage, but he was reserving judgment on him until the pads go on for the first time Saturday. He said that’s when he thinks Perry “will really show up.”
Perry hopes to oblige.
“I’m anxious,” he said of finally getting pads on. “I’m scratching right now. I can’t wait.” Related links