The Green Bay Packers play in the smallest market in major North American professional sports, but the entire state of Wisconsin is effectively the team’s home.
This weekend, the topic of social injustice hit hard for the Packers after a police officer shot a black man seven times in the back in Kenosha. After practice on Monday, the Packers held a meeting to discuss the situation and once again the team’s leadership council helped to foster a collaborative environment for all members of the team to discuss the situation and the challenging issues that it raises.
“That’s the beauty in Matt’s leadership style: he’s allowed us to speak freely and have a forum like that,” Rodgers said. “There are certain guys in the group whose opinion really goes along way. Only thing I’ll say of the meeting is Marcedes (Lewis) really opened it up and a lot of guys had a good conversation.”
With Lewis leading the discussion, Rodgers seems content to step back and absorb his teammates’ comments on the topic, taking an approach that he developed over his lifetime. “I’ve always tried to listen first,” he said. “When you react first out of emotion you lack the ability to listen. And in listening you find that empathy and it’s only in empathy and understanding can you understand what the actual issues are, being a white male.
“When you start listening and understanding, you realize the reality that you grew up in is very different from the reality that many of my teammates grew up in.”
It’s clear that Lewis’ presence is one that Rodgers values for many reasons, from his contributions on the field, his leadership off of it, and his different perspective as a black man from Long Beach. This offseason in particular, Rodgers said that the two have grown very close: “I trust him so much. I think he’s got such a great feel for the pulse of the locker room, what needs to be said and saying the right thing at the right time,” Rodgers said. “The greatest leaders we’ve had, the great Charles Woodson and others, really understood the timing of when to say something and nobody understands that better than Marcedes in this locker room.”
As for the on-field events of the past week, Rodgers feels that the offense is heating up, and that he in particular has found a specific, tangible piece of improvement while going through film study this week. With him looking a bit sharper over the last few days of practice, Rodgers pointed back to something he noticed from the team’s Super Bowl season: “We were watching some old film of the cutups and I just noticed something from like a clip from 2010 actually and it kind of hit me. And I know it was ten years ago but the next day I went out to practice and started working on what I saw on film and the last couple days kind of happened.”
While Rodgers has been on a roll through the weekend, one of his young wide receivers has also put together some good practices back-to-back. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is trying to earn a prominent role once again in 2020, and Rodgers said that his biggest challenge is inside his own head. “The biggest challenge for MVS is always going to be himself, to fight against complacency and to make the last couple days of camp the standard,” Rodgers said. He complimented MVS’ skills and potential, saying “his top end is pretty damn high” and that he has improved his route-running, but ultimately it mainly comes down to confidence and hard work: “It’s about the consistency and trusting himself.”
Finally, Rodgers gave just a glimmer of insight into what the Packers’ offense will likely look like this fall. After discussing the tight end group in detail — rattling off the names of every key player at the position — Rodgers previewed what he feels will probably be the team’s “base” offensive personnel group: “In the next few weeks we’ll look at what packages will work best in our personnel, but I expect that we’ll run a lot of 12 based on the talent we have at (tight end).”
That likely means lots of snaps for all four key members of that group: Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Robert Tonyan, and rookie Josiah Deguara. Given the versatility of each member of that list, there should be plenty of creative ways for the coaching staff to use them. Hopefully that leads to continued improvement on offense as 2020 begins.