GREEN BAY, Wis. — In this week’s meeting with the media, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers talked about facing the Minnesota Vikings this weekend, getting Jordy Nelson back, his level of trust in the team’s running backs, and more.
Five question-and-answer highlights:
1. What is the locker-room mentality right now heading into the final regular-season game?
RODGERS: We’re in a position right now to control our fate to get the No. 2 seed with a win. Tough environment; it’s always difficult playing a division opponent on the road. They have a very loud crowd and a distinct home-field advantage. We need to make them one-dimensional and that’s going to be done by scoring some points early, trying to take the crowd out of it a little bit and trying to make them throw the ball and beat us.
2. What sticks out to you most in thinking about the last game against the Vikings on Dec. 2?
RODGERS: We didn’t do a whole lot on offense. Their defense played pretty good. They have a stout defense. They have some guys playing real well on the back end. I think (safety Harrison) Smith is definitely coming on. He’s a guy who has the potential to be a star in this league, I think. He’s a young player right now but he’s picking it up really fast. Biggest difference I see in that defense from year to year is when Antoine Winfield is healthy, they play better. He’s a big-time player, very good cover guy, incredible tackler, he’s tough, and when he’s playing, their defense can do some more of the things they want to do.
3. How long will it take Nelson to get in sync again after missing three games?
RODGERS: Hopefully a couple days of practice. It’s nice seeing him back out there. Hopefully we can have him full-go by the weekend. I’m not sure what Randall’s (Cobb) status will be, but to at least have Greg (Jennings) and Jordy out there at the same time would be nice. Jermichael (Finley) has been playing really well inside and gives us a lot of weapons when you’re attacking a defense.
4. With the different running backs on the team, is there one who you have the most comfort with in protection?
RODGERS: John (Kuhn), for sure. John, year in and year out, is our unsung MVP. He’s a guy who does so much more than shows up on the stat sheets. He’s a very intelligent guy; knows the offense as well as anybody in the locker room. He’s great in protection schemes, he has incredible instincts, very smart player, he’s always in the right spot, he’s always picking up slack for people, he’s making big plays on checkdowns on third down. He’s a guy you love playing with because, I just have an immense trust in John knowing that he’s going to have my back in situations on third downs and as long as he’s out there, I’m feeling pretty comfortable. We’re trying to bring those young guys along. Ryan (Grant) probably knows the protection schemes, and Alex (Green) as well, they know it well. Gotta get the young guy (DuJuan Harris) up to speed pretty quick.
5. Is the passing game starting to click more now than it had been earlier in the season?
RODGERS: The last couple weeks we’ve seen some more one-high (defenses). Teams have allowed us to run some of those slant patterns that had been gone for a while because they’re not a great cover-two beater. We’ve just seen, in the winter months a lot of times teams will challenge you a little bit more than early in the season when the weather gets more difficult to throw the football. We’ve had some success the last couple weeks. Playing in a dome, controlled environment, against a team that likes to play cover-two, we’ll kind of see what happens.