GREEN BAY – Richard Rodgers wasn’t exactly sure what was going on behind him during an early team period of Saturday’s annual Family Night practice inside Lambeau Field.
The Packers tight end just knew he was open in the middle of the field and a picture-perfect pass from quarterback Brett Hundley was quickly rocketing in his direction.
As Rodgers has done through most of training camp, the fourth-year veteran pulled down the pass in stride and carried it out for what would be a 58-yard touchdown to the cheers of the 63,156 in attendance.
“It’s a good thing Brett saw me and threw a good ball,” said Rodgers with a smile.
Rodgers has flown under the radar this summer following the addition of veterans Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks in free agency.
However, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reminded reporters earlier this week that Richard Rodgers is very much a reliable part of the three-headed monster forming at tight end.
With Hundley operating under center on that particular connection, Richard Rodgers again proved why he has the confidence of his quarterbacks.
It also helped Hundley put the pass right on the money, leading Rodgers past safety Marwin Evans down the seam for the deep completion.
“It felt awesome,” Hundley said. “We had some go routes and Richie was wide open down the middle of the field. We had some night, throwing the ball around and just making things happen. It’s good for us to see what it’s like to be under the lights with the crowd.”
Although Bennett and Kendricks have played a combined 15 NFL seasons, the 25-year-old Rodgers brings his own form of veteran experience to the party after playing in all 48 regular-season games over the past three seasons, with 23 starts.
With 108 receptions during that stretch, Rodgers knows firsthand what Aaron Rodgers expects out of his tight ends, and he’s been open about passing along tips to everyone from Bennett to undrafted rookie Aaron Peck in meeting rooms.
Right now, Rodgers isn’t concerned about what the depth chart will look like at tight end this season. His focus is simple – make plays and win games.
“Whenever we start game-planning, that’s when we figure out roles,” Rodgers said. “But right now we’re just trying to do whatever we can to try to help the team win. We have a great group of offensive guys right now.”
While Rodgers may have helped get the crowd revved up early, it was Peck who sent the crowd home happy. First Leap:
The 6-foot-2, 239-pound rookie out of Fresno State pulled down a 13-yard touchdown pass from Hundley on first-and-goal with only 14 seconds left in the two-minute drill between the No. 2 offense and defense.
Peck stood in the end zone for a few moments after the catch, unsure about what to do next. That was until teammates began telling him to do the famous touchdown celebration.
“I wasn’t sure if I could do it, you know what I’m saying?” Peck said. “I don’t know who it was, but one of the linemen told me, ‘What are you doing? You’ve got to go do the Lambeau Leap.’ I’m like, ‘All right!’ So, I turned around and did my thing.”
Shortly thereafter, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, receiver Randall Cobb and second-year cornerback Josh Hawkins joined in on the festivities.
Hawkins was just hanging out in the vicinity of the end zone when Rodgers told him to come along for the ride to the thrill of the fans seated in the front row of the south end zone.
“It was fun,” Hawkins said. “It was a good experience, especially when 12 told me to do it with him. It was amazing. He’s a great guy, humble guy.”
Hawkins, who’d never previously performed a Lambeau Leap, said it provided even greater motivation to get there again.
“I can’t wait,” Hawkins said. “It’s coming. I’ve been asking God for it. It’s coming. I can’t chase it. I have to let it come to me.”
Another first: Rookie punter Justin Vogel got his first taste of what it’s like to punt inside Lambeau Field when he led off an early special-teams period.
Vogel played in front of plenty of big crowds at the University of Florida and Miami (Fla.), but there is something special about punting inside Lambeau Field for the first time.
“It was an amazing experience,” Vogel said. “No matter how many college stadiums you’ve played in, it’s not the same.”