If you were waiting all summer to hear quarterback Aaron Rodgers finally speak his truth about his issues with the Green Bay Packers, Wednesday’s opening to training camp was a gold mine. Open and candid, the gunslinger finally broke his silence while we got our first look at what the collective team could bring to the table in their first practice with their 2021 starting quarterback on the field.
Pre-practice presser, general manager Brian Gutekunst
- For the most part, both Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur avoided answering questions about two major topics: Randall Cobb, as he is still technically a Houston Texan and speaking on him would technically be filed under tampering, and Aaron Rodgers’ restructured contract, as some aspects of the deal still have not been ironed out or made official.
- Gutekunst stated that his optimism around being able to bring Rodgers back this season came from a shared objective: “Our goals are the same. We want to win a championship with the Green Bay Packers.
- On the possibility that Davante Adams talks reignite, following a report that the two sides were done discussing an extension for the moment, Gutekunst claimed, “[an Adams extension is] very important for us moving forward.”
- The general manager also clarified at one point that he did call Rodgers on the night that the team drafted Jordan Love, but did not give him advanced notice before draft day. “We revisited that a number of times.”
- He also noted that the Packers players on the non-football injury list were all flagged for minor, short-term issues that were “part of the entry physical.”
- With left tackle David Bakhtiari still out, the Packers’ first-team offensive line (from left to right) was Elgton Jenkins, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Lucas Patrick and Billy Turner. Ben Braden, who had seen first-team snaps at left tackle when Jenkins was also missing time this summer, and rookie Royce Newman, who had rotated in the lineup at guard and right tackle, are seemingly the team’s seventh and eighth linemen if you include Bakhtiari in the headcount.
- Defensively, the team was missing starting pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith, cornerback Kevin King and defensive lineman Keke Kingsley due to their presence on the NFI list. Tyler Lancaster stepped into Kingsley’s place, while first-round rookie Eric Stokes took over for King and former first-rounder Rashan Gary lined up opposite of Preston Smith on the edge. At inside linebacker, the starters were Kyrs Barnes and 2021 free agent signing De’Vondre Campbell.
- Everyone hates to talk about special teams, but it’s an important enough phase of the game to where it decides roster spots. Linebacker Oren Burks, safety Vernon Scott and linebacker Ty Summers saw notable reps in practice in football’s third phase. According to Pro Football Reference, those three players were among the Packers’ top-five most-played special teamers, all recording more snaps than the kicking specialists in 2020. Those three players played a combined 361 snaps defensively last season but played 864 special teams reps. Expect them to push for roster spots until they’re replaced on special teams.
Post-practice pressers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams
- For as much benign coach speak that Gutekunst and LaFleur gave us in the morning, Rodgers and Adams made up for it in raw honesty, right or wrong, after the practice.
- At one point, Rodgers brought up the examples of Charles Woodson, Jordy Nelson, Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, James Jones, John Kuhn, Brett Goode, TJ Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde as opportunities where the team allowed talent to walk out the door. Interestingly, Mike Daniels and Josh Sitton, two Pro Bowlers who were cut late in the offseason in their final season with the Packers, missed the list, but Goode, a long snapper, was worth mentioning. Rodgers also claimed that Peppers wanted to retire as a Packer and that Nelson and Woodson wanted to take pay cuts to stay around. He stressed the leadership qualities that come with veteran players in the locker room.
- Rodgers, speaking on how he hopes to change Green Bay’s program: “I wanted to offer my services as a recruiter...Green Bay isn’t a huge vacation destination. People are coming here to play with me...Look, I mean, just talk to Preston Smith. Why he came here and why he actually took a pay cut to re-sign. He knows that we have an opportunity to win a championship when I’m playing. It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by other players across the league, who hit me up and want to come or get traded to Green Bay. They want to be a part of an opportunity to win a championship.”
- Rodgers, on Randall Cobb: “To get Randall [Cobb] back is really special. It’s something that I talked about back in February, wanting to bring in a true slot receiver. I thought that would make our offense more dynamic, and I think Randall is a dynamic player. He has been when he’s been healthy.”
- When asked “Did you get the right to basically decide where you are going to play next year, if you choose to play?” Rodgers responded, “No. That’s not what I’ve been told or understand. No.”
- In the context of his relationship with general manager Gutekunst, Rodgers described it as “professional.” Gutekunst, Rodgers and LaFleur all seem to be describing their relationship in the same way: professional, not emotional, but needing more clear communication than in the past.
- Adams made a big claim, stating, “Yeah. No. That’s not going to happen,” when asked, “Would you be willing to not be the highest-paid wide receiver if it means staying with [Rodgers]?” He has planted his flag, officially. He wants to be the highest-paid receiver in the league and he seemingly won’t budge. Currently, DeAndre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals leads the league at the position with a mark of $27.25 million per year deal.