Packers TE Rodgers not worried about walking in shoes of other Rodgers from Cal
MAY 22, 2014 10:16a ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Unlike many professional athletes, Richard Rodgers does not have a Twitter account. But soon after the announcement that the Green Bay Packers drafted the former University of California tight end with the 98th overall pick in the third round, Rodgers couldn't help but find out what one of his new teammates thought of the selection.
"Another Rodgers from Cal in Green Bay; sweet," quarterback Aaron Rodgers posted for his 1.18 million followers to see that night.
It was impossible to miss the obvious connection. And once the more famous Rodgers made note of it publicly, it was bound to reach the new Rodgers on the block sooner than later.
Amidst the congratulations from Richard Rodgers' friends and family, there have been plenty of people reminding him that there's quite a high precedent set around Green Bay for players from California with that last name.
"I don't think I need to walk in his shoes," Richard Rodgers said, laughing. "Because he plays quarterback."
By the midway point of rookie orientation, the 21-year-old rookie had not yet met the former NFL Most Valuable Player. Though Rodgers was made aware that he won't have to put "R. Rodgers" on the back of his jersey, he had an idea to try to distinguish himself.
"I might put Rodgers the 2nd," he said with a smile. "I'm just looking forward to meeting him."
He isn't the most well-known Rodgers on the Packers, he isn't the most well-known Richard Rodgers in football (his father is the special teams coordinator for the Carolina Panthers but is best remembered for being part of "The Play" in 1982 between California and Stanford) and he isn't the first Richard Rodgers to show up in an online search for information about him (that belongs to the famous musical composer who wrote The Sound of Music, among other classics.)
What Richard Rodgers is, though, is a player that Green Bay hopes to develop into a key member of the franchise for many years to come.
"Very productive, very natural, understands the game," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think the game comes naturally to him."
McCarthy admitted that Rodgers does "have some learning to do." That learning curve stems from a strange situation at California that led to him playing a brand new position as a junior and having to drop 30 pounds in order to do so.
Unfortunately for him, "fluctuating weight" became a worrisome matter that accompanied his draft stock. But it wasn't due to some odd diet or exercise habits that his weight bounced around so drastically over the past year and a half.
"It was just as plain and simple as it sounds: I was 275 from my freshman year to my sophomore year," Rodgers began to explain to FOXSportsWisconsin.com. "Then at the end of my sophomore year, when the coaches changed (from Jeff Tedford to Sonny Dykes), they ran the spread offense and they told me I need to lose 30 pounds. If I didn't lose 30 pounds, I wasn't going to play. So I had to lose 30 pounds, and it's as simple as that."
Perhaps that will satisfy the draft analysts who continued to question that aspect of Rodgers as an incoming prospect.
After spending last season at 245 pounds, Rodgers was up to 257 pounds when he weighed in at the Scouting Combine in late February. Once he arrived in Green Bay, he was at 267 pounds, which is right around where he said he feels at his best.
In addition to getting comfortable at this weight, Rodgers also has to readjust to playing tight end.
"I played inside receiver pretty much the whole time (as a junior in 2013)," he said.
It's for that reason that when Packers tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot studied Rodgers before the draft, he had to go back a year to see him in more traditional tight end situations.
"He wasn't spending a lot of time in-line next to the tackle blocking," Fontenot said. "He did spend a lot of time in the slot, a little bit of time in the backfield. Yeah, he was primarily a route-runner."
Naturally, some assumed that Rodgers was a sort-of replacement for injured free agent tight end Jermichael Finley in Green Bay's offense. And, as a tight end drafted just seven spots after Finley was in 2008, many wondered if Rodgers will develop into the Packers' starter now or in the near future. But thoughts about the depth chart aren't even entering Rodgers' mind.
"I don't think I'm looking around for any of that," Rodgers said. "I kind of just do whatever they ask me to do. That's my mentality. I'm just going to come in and do my job, whatever that is. If it's special teams, if it's blocking, punts, whatever I can do to help the team, that's what I'm going to do.
"I don't think it's about coming in and trying to take someone's job or trying to be the starter or anything like that. You just play to the best of your ability and then everything else plays out."
General manager Ted Thompson recently said that a draft class can't truly be judged for three years. Rodgers didn't want to think that far ahead, at least not for him individually.
"You just get it done, and hopefully when they look back on everything, there's three Super Bowls, four Super Bowls, however many," he said. "It's a team effort. It's not about one person or one pick being a steal, because I think it's just about the whole team together doing what they're supposed to do, and that's how you win games."
R. Rodgers, Rodgers the 2nd, whatever name he settles on, the chances of him being the best Rodgers to come out of California or to become the most well-known Richard Rodgers in history are just a tiny sliver over zero percent. But he could soon be an important member of Green Bay's team, and with Richard Rodgers' attitude, that seems like more than enough for him as long as the team is winning.
"He is a smart kid, so I don't think it's going to take him long to figure this out," Fontenot said.
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