GREEN BAY, Wis. – A summer’s worth of talk about how much Aaron Rodgers will be allowed to audible in new coach Matt LaFleur’s offense didn’t end just because the Green Bay Packers took the field Thursday for their first practice.
In fact, it continued with a big smile from Rodgers.
His post-practice session with reporters began like this:
How many audibles did you call today?
“So many,” Rodgers said with a chuckle. “So many. Thirty probably. That’s a good number.”
Were they successful?
“Twenty-nine of them,” Rodgers said. “One bad one.”
Make no mistake about it, Rodgers was having fun with the issue.
However, it doesn’t mean there still aren’t kinks to be ironed out, but both Rodgers and his first-time head coach said that’s what training camp is for.
It was earlier this offseason when both admitted that there will have to be an adjustment both for Rodgers, who took advantage of wide-ranging freedom at the line of scrimmage under former coach Mike McCarthy, and for LaFleur, whose Sean McVay-Kyle Shanahan based system has been far more limiting.
“It’s not necessarily about what I’ve done in my past or what he’s done in his past,” LaFleur said at the opening of camp. “It’s about how do we make this the Packers offense, and that’s coming together to get us functioning at the highest possible level.”
General manager Brian Gutekunst said on the eve of training camp that the LaFleur-Rodgers relationship has been “very, very collaborative.”
“What I can say is that him and I are friends,” Rodgers said. “I think that’s the first part of the relationship. The on-the-field relationship is one that grows over time. He hasn’t called a play in to me in a game situation yet, so there’s a process of feeling comfortable with the way the play comes in and him trusting me and me trusting him. But I feel great about the communication. He’s in every meeting. We spend time one-on-one talking about stuff. He’s the main voice in the offensive room but he really appreciates open conversation and ideas and creativity. It’s been a great relationship, a great start to it, and I look forward to that growing and getting into that rhythm with him as a play caller.”
In perhaps a sign of the growing pains the offense might endure, Rodgers threw an interception in a red-zone period. Despite what most considered a down year for Rodgers last season, he threw only two interceptions all of last season. Rodgers said after practice that he simply didn’t see linebacker Blake Martinez, who picked off the pass.
“The one thing I’ll say to that is with the quarterback position, you’re talking about — in my opinion — it’s the toughest position in all of sports,” LaFleur said. “And the last thing that we ever want to do is send a quarterback out there who is uncomfortable with what we’re doing. Like I said, we’re making this the Packers offense. So, you know, it is a little bit of a work in progress as we go through and try to find out what exactly our guys do well and make sure we showcase that.”
Dan Graziano and Dan Orlovsky share the trials Aaron Rodgers is facing in Packers coach Matt LaFleur’s system.
Still, Rodgers and LaFleur are up against long odds this season. No coach in Packers history has gone to the playoffs in his first season. Not even McCarthy and Mike Holmgren, both of whom won Super Bowls and have streets named after them in Green Bay.
Rodgers turned 35 in December, but he has expressed a desire to play into his 40s. He’s under contract through the 2023 season, which means he and LaFleur have deals that run concurrently (including LaFleur’s option year).
“My career’s at stake every year I go out there,” Rodgers said. “I’ve got to perform, otherwise they’re going to find somebody who can come in here and do it just as well for less. We all know that. Everybody’s expendable. Every great player that I’ve been around here just about has either finished up somewhere else or had a disappointing end to their time here. So, I’d like to not be one of those guys, but I’m realistic enough to realize it’s happened to a lot of my close friends. I need to play well, I expect to play well, expect for us to be successful and I expect this not to be an issue moving forward.”