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PACKERS

Jordan Love’s view of extra work without Aaron Rodgers at OTAs? ‘I’m loving it,’ Packers backup says

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GREEN BAY — Jordan Love and Aaron Rodgers have talked about the parallels many times before.

After all, no one has a better idea of the maelstrom of emotions Love is experiencing right now — impatience, excitement, pressure, uncertainty, self-assuredness, eagerness, nerves, frustration — than the guy who felt the exact same feelings (and then some) 15 years earlier.

Such is life when you’re a young backup quarterback and the guy in front of you on the Green Bay Packers’ depth chart is a Pro Football Hall-of-Famer-to-be. Rodgers lived it in 2005, 2006 and 2007 behind Brett Favre, and now Love is continuing to endure the same fate in 2022, his third year behind Rodgers.

Which is why, following the Packers’ second organized team activity practice of the offseason on Tuesday afternoon, Love was talking through those feelings and trying to keep Rodgers’ advice in mind while the four-time NFL MVP chose not to attend the sessions — allowing Love to take all of the first-team reps during practice.

“Yeah, we’ve talked about that — plenty. (It’s the) same situation that he was in,” Love said during a post-practice Q&A session with reporters in the Packers locker room. “He’s told me (to) just take these reps, act like I’m the guy — be the guy when he’s not here.

“He said he did the same thing. Favre wasn’t there, he was running the show. So he just said, ‘Take it and run with it.’”

That’s precisely what Love is trying to do, with Rodgers having deemed OTAs not necessary for him to attend. While Rodgers is expected to be at the team’s June 7-9 mandatory minicamp, he may not come for a single OTA session before or after it.

“He doesn’t really need this time right now, so I enjoy it,” Love said. “Him not being here, it just means more reps for me and more reps for everybody else in the quarterback room. Obviously, I’m loving it.”

After not even wearing his No. 10 uniform on a game day during his 2020 rookie season, which he spent as the inactive No. 3 quarterback behind Rodgers and Tim Boyle, Love saw extended action in two games last season.

He started a 13-7 loss at Kansas City on Nov. 7 after Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19, and he played the entire second half of a 37-30 loss at Detroit on Jan. 9 after the Packers had already clinched the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed and a first-round bye.

“Just getting out there and being able to play was huge,” Love said. “Obviously, it’s a process being a quarterback in the NFL, and the more reps you can get in that game, it helps. There’s a lot of takeaways and things I wish I can do better and obviously things I felt I did good. I’m just trying to work on those things, tightening the details.”

The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Love finished the season having played 131 snaps, completing 36 of 62 passes (58.1%) for 411 yards with two touchdowns, three interceptions and three sacks for a passer rating of 68.7. He also ran seven times for 32 yards, not counting end-of-half and end-of-game kneel-downs.

He also got plenty of practice work during the second half of the regular season as Rodgers nursed a fractured pinkie toe and spent most of the week healing.

“I think the confidence is there, just watching him process things a little bit quicker than he had before,” veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb said after Tuesday’s practice. “I always thought he threw a great ball, but it’s all about doing it with a defense in front of you and putting it in tight windows.”

Rodgers’ decision to skip this week’s voluntary OTA sessions left Love in charge of the No. 1 offense, just as he was last year when a disgruntled Rodgers stayed away and Love got all the first-team work.

But unlike last year, when there was genuine uncertainty about whether Rodgers would play for the Packers again, Love knows Rodgers will be back under for his 18th NFL season and 15th as the Packers’ starter after signing a three-year, $150 million extension in March.

Asked Tuesday what he thought when he saw the news — via Twitter — that Rodgers was coming back and had inked a new deal, Love replied: “I mean, I was super happy for Aaron. Obviously, the dude deserves it (with) what he’s done the last two years. Personally, for me, it just means I’m about to be a backup again for this year. That’s all I can control right now. I was happy for Aaron, but at the same time it’s like, ‘Argh.’ You know?

“I’m still here. I’m still going to do my job. And I’d compete to be that guy if he is here or if he isn’t here.”

Love said he didn’t think the certainty of Rodgers playing at least another season or two in Green Bay changes his mentality or approach. When asked directly whether Rodgers’ extension changes his future in Green Bay, Love replied: “I have no idea. Honestly.”

As the 26th overall pick in 2020, Love signed a fully guaranteed four-year, $12.38 million contract, but the Packers will have to decide next spring whether to pick up his fifth-year option for 2024 or not. Rodgers’ view of his own future surely will factor into that decision, as will Love’s play throughout training camp, preseason games and any action he might see in games that actually count in the standings.

During Tuesday’s practice, the No. 1 offense lined up with Cobb, second-round pick Christian Watson and fourth-round pick Romeo Doubs as the wideouts in three-receiver sets. To maximize practice work, coach Matt LaFleur again had two 11-on-11 periods running simultaneously on opposite sides of midfield, with Kurt Benkert and Danny Etling running the Nos. 2 and 3 offenses across from Love’s group.

“I think Jordan’s doing a great job of really taking ownership of this offense,” LaFleur said. “It’s a great opportunity for him to get the majority of the reps out there throughout the course of OTAs.”

LaFleur didn’t want to predict exactly when Rodgers might come to Green Bay, saying it’s “all on him” since the sessions are voluntary. LaFleur did say the two men talked on Monday night and LaFleur said Rodgers was in “great spirits.”

Love, meanwhile, says he’s in great spirits, too.

“That’s the thing that I try and focus on right now, just try to have fun, go out there and enjoy it as much as I can,” Love said. “I feel good right now. I’ve taken steps in the offense and I feel more comfortable in it. But I always feel confident that if I get thrown out there, I’m going to be good.”

Extra points

Rodgers wasn’t the only big-name under contract veteran who wasn’t at Tuesday’s voluntary practice. Also missing were wide receiver Sammy Watkins; cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas; outside linebackers Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Jonathan Garvin and Randy Ramsey; and tight end Marcedes Lewis. … LaFleur said Watkins, signed as a free agent earlier this offseason, has been at much of the offseason program, even though he wasn’t there Tuesday. “He’s done a nice job,” LaFleur said. … Restricted free agent wide receiver Allen Lazard had not yet signed his tender and also wasn’t there. … Left tackle David Bakhtiari, left guard Elgton Jenkins, tight end Robert Tonyan and running back Kylin Hill were all seen with the rehabilitation group as they work their way back from knee injuries. … LaFleur announced the team will have joint practices with the New Orleans Saints in Green Bay before the teams meet in Week 2 of the preseason in mid-August. He and Saints coach Dennis Allen are working through the details, LaFleur said. “It just brings a different level of competition,” said LaFleur, who also brought in the Houston Texans in 2019 and the New York Jets last year for joint practices. “And what it really does for us is it affords us the ability to feel like we got good work with our veterans and not have to play them in the game. That’s part of the reason I like those so much.”

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