The reigning two-time MVP’s mood was quite different Wednesday after the first practice of this year’s camp.
Rodgers poked fun at former teammate Davante Adams, joked that without the star receiver the Packers now are a defensive team, said he plays the game for “love” and shared an anecdote that illustrates just how much things have changed in the organization.
Adams, who was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in March at his request, recently discussed his transition from Rodgers to quarterback Derek Carr, telling CBS Sports: “Anytime you change quarterbacks from Hall of Famer to Hall of Famer … it’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment.”
So when Rodgers was asked about Allen Lazard possibly replacing Adams as the Packers’ No. 1 receiver, he mimicked Adams’ recent comments.
“Yeah, I mean it’s always tough going from Hall of Famer to Hall of Famer,” Rodgers said, before pausing to wait for the laughter to subside. “From Davante to Allen, it’s going to be a transition, but he’s capable of a lot.”
Rodgers also joked that “we’re a defensive team now” without Adams, but he made sure to clarify that his comment was tongue-in-cheek.
“I like our defense on paper for sure,” Rodgers said, referring to a unit that finished ninth last season and with the team’s two first-round picks having been used on defensive players Devonte Wyatt and Quay Walker. “But offense still wins games, and we’re going to have to be efficient offensively.”
Rodgers was quick to point out how effective the offense was Wednesday during the 90-minute practice without pads. He completed several passes to Lazard in team periods, including one that looked a lot like Antonio Freeman’s “Monday Night Miracle” catch in 2000.
“I felt coming into camp, to be honest, we were going to get our butts kicked most days because our defense is talented and deep and athletic,” Rodgers said. “It’s one of the best defenses on paper that we’ve had, but I told those chumps, ‘1-0 offense.'”
Rodgers, who practiced only twice during the entire offseason program, looked as sharp as usual. He’s not expected to play in any preseason games, so his practice reps are all he’ll have to get ready for the season, all while making sure he keeps his arm from getting sore.
“I think that’s something that we always kind of monitor with all the quarterbacks, just in terms of the number of throws they get,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “Certainly we did last year, and we’ll follow a similar protocol as we have in the past.”
Rodgers returned for his 18th NFL season (15th as a starter) armed with the three-year, $150 million contract extension he signed in March and with four MVPs under his belt, including each of the past two seasons. When asked why he still plays, he said: “Love, probably.”
“Just tapping into the love of this game, love of my teammates,” he added. “That’s what gets me up in the morning, coming in here and loving what I do, and having that gratitude for this opportunity. Because at some point, the ride is going to be over. So enjoying every step of the way.
“Obviously we want to win a Super Bowl, and individual accolades are great. But being present in the moment I think is really important, especially for an older player, because each moment is just a little bit more special.”
Rodgers also said he has seen significant changes in the organizations in the past year since he expressed his dissatisfaction. He said there’s been a more personal touch from the top down and gave an example of how it used to be.
“There’s funny stories — not funny, actually — about Kenny Clark coming in on cut day and somebody thinking he was a different guy who was going to get cut, and they told him, ‘Grab your playbook and head upstairs,'” Rodgers said. “And Kenny’s like, ‘What? I was a first-round pick. I’m getting cut? It’s my third year.’
“You know, stuff like that just can’t happen in an organization that’s run well because the relationships are the most important thing in this game. That’s what fuels the chemistry — the chemistry fuels the cohesion of a team, and that makes a difference in those crunch-time moments when the game is on the line. And it starts at the top.”