When you’re the Super Bowl MVP of the reigning Super Bowl champions, a preseason opener isn’t a major event in your career, but for Aaron Rodgers’ backups, Saturday’s game in Cleveland has significance.
“I told Matt (Flynn) this is an important preseason for him, given his situation,” Rodgers told reporters on Tuesday, referring to the fact that Flynn is in the final year of his contract with the Packers.
“You could tell he had that certain quality, huddle presence. The talent has always been there. It’s just a matter of knowing what to do with the talent. The next step for him is definitely being a starter,” Rodgers added.
Flynn is the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback. He rose to prominence with a three-touchdown performance in a loss to the Patriots last season. Immediately, he became a candidate to become some other team’s quarterback of the future.
Asked about Flynn’s future with the Packers, General Manager Ted Thompson would only say: “As a rule, we like to keep all of our players.” Thompson would not go into detail as to how he plans to keep Flynn.
Graham Harrell is the Packers’ No. 3 quarterback and the preseason will be every bit as important for him as it will be for Flynn, as Harrell would be auditioning for the No. 2 job should Flynn leave in free agency. It’s possible Harrell’s performance might even play a role in whatever decision is made on Flynn.
“I think there’s a lot of faith in him,” Rodgers said of Harrell.
All of the Packers’ faith, of course, is in Rodgers. He’s the player around whom the Packers offense is built, and neither a preseason opener nor a poor practice by the offense on Monday night is going to cause Rodgers any degree of anxiety.
“Practice?” he said, using the Allen Iverson shtick to joke with reporters about a Monday practice that produced multiple fumbles and Coach Mike McCarthy’s seal of disapproval. “I’m not overly concerned. We just have to clean things up.
“At this point in camp, we’re concerned with getting our installs in, get the young guys up to speed, take a couple of hits and get back into the swing of things,” he added of his expectations for Saturday’s game against the Browns.
One of the themes of this training camp has involved a receiving corps so loaded with weapons that fans and media alike are wondering how Rodgers will manage to spread the ball around enough to satisfy all of his receivers.
“Whoever gets open the most is going to get the most opportunities. The guys know how I play. I go through my progressions and go to the open guy,” Rodgers said.
“We all want the ball,” wide receiver James Jones said. “We all know that but, at the same time, we’re a very unselfish group.”
Saturday’s game could mark the return to action of tight end Jermichael Finley, who was lost for the season with a knee injury in the Packers’ Week 5 loss in Washington last year. Finley is practicing at full speed, which means he might play against the Browns. He was not “dressed,” however, for last Saturday’s “Family Night” practice.
“It’s not a problem as long as whoever gets the ball thrown to him makes plays. We got weapons everywhere. We got weapons on the shelf,” Finley said.
A healthy Finley would be expected to be one of Rodgers’ main weapons. It should also be noted that Finley is in his contract year.
“I would love to be here my whole career, but it’s a business, at the same time,” he said.
The Packers get back to business on Saturday.