GREEN BAY, Wis. — In this week’s media session, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers discussed the changes in this year’s offense, getting the ball to Jordy Nelson, seeing Jermichael Finley since the injury and much more.
Here are five question-and-answer highlights from the interview with Rodgers:
1. Will it be strange to face a Chicago Bears defense without Brian Urlacher (retired) and Lance Briggs (injured)?
RODGERS: “It’ll be different. It’s part of the league, though. It’s a young man’s game and it’s tough to stay healthy. It’s a credit to those guys how long they’ve played. Brian, the years and years he played at a really high level, I loved the competition. Lance has been playing at a Hall of Fame level himself for years and unfortunately he won’t be out there for them, and for me, as well. I enjoy the competition. I have a lot of respect for Lance the way he plays, what he’s done in his career. He’s an incredible player, someone you have to account for all the time. For whatever reason, (he) probably hasn’t gotten the due that he deserves over the length of his career for how well he’s played. He has the respect of his peers and look forward to seeing him.”
2. Does this offense have a different identity than it did in recent years?
RODGERS: “Well it is different. Two years ago, we were an explosive team, and mostly in the passing game. This year, the yards are way up and we’re running the football a lot more effectively. We’re Top 5 I believe, still Top 5 in throwing it and running it, which I’m sure hasn’t happened here in a while. So you’ve got to give a lot of credit to the offensive line, first and foremost. Obviously we have a good scheme every week, but the line is doing a great job. If we’re able to throw it effectively and you can run it for 140-plus yards as well, that says a lot about those guys upfront. I think it’s a combination of them being able to jell together starting in the offseason when Mike (McCarthy) made the switch and moved the two guys on the right over to the left, and the two guys on the left to the right. Now we had some injuries, but those guys have been consistent, especially the middle three the entire season. David (Bakhtiari) has been a non-story, and Donny (Barclay) has played really well.”
3. Now that Jordy Nelson has been your No. 1 target due to injuries to the rest of the starting receivers, how have you continued to get him the ball?
RODGERS: “I don’t have a No. 1 threat, or a go-to guy. I like to throw it to the open guy, as I always say. He gets open more than most people so the ball goes his way maybe a little more at times. But I think the coaches have done a good job of moving him around. We’re not keeping him in a spot — outside left or outside right, moving him in the slot, bring him in motion. That makes it difficult for teams that are trying to double one particular guy. Now, as well as he’s playing, you have to highlight a guy like Jarrett Boykin, who has played really well the last two weeks, and if you’re going to one-on-one him and double Jordy and still try and keep a guy in the box for run support, then a guy like Jarrett has to step up and play well, and the last two weeks he has.”
4. Have you needed to spend more time with Jarrett Boykin and Myles White in recent weeks than what you would have spent with more experienced receivers like Randall Cobb and James Jones?
RODGERS: “To their credit, no I haven’t. There’s been more conversations but not more one-on-one time. Those guys are very well prepared, they’re very well coached. They spend extra time, I know, with Edgar (Bennett). They’ve asked the right questions when we’ve had meetings, but we do a good job of watching the film together. The coaches allow me to have a voice in those meeting rooms when we’re watching with the tight ends and the receivers. They know what I’m thinking, they know how I want the routes run, and the timing that needs to happen, and, to Jerry Fontenot’s and Edgar Bennett’s credit, they do a great job of making notes on some of the stuff that I’m seeing just to hit it with those young guys multiple times. Obviously, the repetition kind of cements into your brain and those guys did a really good job of being prepared. I’m proud of Myles, I’m proud of Jarrett and I’m proud of the young tight ends as well.”
5. Was it good to see Jermichael Finley somewhat back to normal on Wednesday for the team photo?
RODGERS: “Yeah, I really don’t know what normal is anymore, but for him I think the comfort of being back in this locker room. You know, he went through a difficult injury, still dealing with it. But this is an escape for a lot of us, to be in this locker room with our brothers, to be able to joke around and go to practice and sit in meetings. You think about a lot in the offseason how, for me, if I’m sitting on the beach, how special that moment is, but in the back of your mind you’re thinking about how you miss the structure of a locker room, you miss the structure of a game week, and this is why we do what we do. When you’re done playing, you’re going to miss the relationships I think the most. I know being away from the facility for a couple days when I had my concussion, my second one back in 2010, the things I missed the most were the guys. So I’m sure it’s been great for J-Mike to come back in. It’s been good to see him, gave him a big hug, and he looks great.”