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PACKERS | TRAINING CAMP

Lower expectations? As camp commences, Packers know it’s Super Bowl or bust, as always, in Titletown

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Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb have yet to play together in a Super Bowl. Rodgers has appeared in one (beating Pittsburgh 31-25 in the 2010-11 season) while Cobb has not played in it since being drafted in 2011.

GREEN BAY — Randall Cobb knew what he was trying to do wouldn’t actually work. There’s no way he even believed what he was saying.

Nevertheless, he tried.

Entering the second season of his second go-round with the Green Bay Packers, the veteran wide receiver has spent his entire career talking about winning the Super Bowl.

And he still hasn’t won one.

He arrived in Green Bay as a 20-year-old rookie second-round pick the year after the 2010 team won Super Bowl XLV and, aside from one-year detours to Dallas and Houston, he’d entered every one of his first 11 NFL seasons with championship expectations — including last season, when the top-seeded Packers lost at home to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional playoff round.

And so, as veterans reported to Lambeau Field on Tuesday — not everyone dressed up as Nicolas Cage’s character “Con Air” like quarterback Aaron Rodgers did — in advance of Wednesday’s first full-squad practice of training camp at Ray Nitschke Field, Cobb did so hoping that a less ambitious mentality might improve the team’s mojo.

Even if he doesn’t mean it.

“That was rough. That was a rough way to end it. Obviously, we had high hopes and we had high expectations. And to fall short and fall short the way we did, it was heartbreaking,” Cobb said of the 49ers’ loss during an appearance on “Wilde & Tausch” on ESPN Wisconsin last week.

“And unfortunately, we’ve been on that side too many times over the past 12 years. It sucks. That’s why we’re kind of, ‘We’re just hoping we make the playoffs this year, we’ll see what happens.’

“All I’m saying is, we’ve shot for the Super Bowl every single year. ‘Oh, we’re making it this year. This is our year.’ (So let’s try) low expectations. And we’ll see how it goes.”

Make no mistake, with the four-time NFL MVP at quarterback, two starting-caliber running backs and with a defense that, on paper, looks like it could be among the league’s best, no one is looking at the Packers as anything but a title contender — even with an unsettled depth chart at wide receiver, where the trade that sent superstar Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders in March has left a gaping hole.

That said, even Rodgers acknowledges there will be “growing pains” on an offense with three rookie draft picks at wideout, uncertainty at tight end and some injury issues up front on the line.

“I would just say, ‘Everybody, let’s just take a nice, long, deep breath, and trust the training-camp time we have, trust the coaching staff, trust the relationships that will be formed, trust the guys in the room, (the veteran) guys to help these guys out,’” Rodgers cautioned during an appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” earlier this month.

“I was joking with a couple of my buddies on the squad and in the personnel department and the training room. I said, ‘It could be a long training camp for the offense.’ I like the way our defense is looking — just on paper, it looks like they’re going to be pretty formidable — so there could be some growing pains for the offense, which will be great for us. It’ll be nice for us to take our lumps for time-to-time. I think it’ll help us get better.”

The coaching staff also is in flux, even though coach Matt LaFleur enters his fourth season in charge with a 39-10 regular-season record, the most wins by any coach in his first three seasons in league history.

LaFleur’s offensive coaching staff underwent an overhaul during the offseason following the departures of coordinator Nathaniel Hackett (now the Denver Broncos coach) and quarterbacks coach/passing-game coordinator Luke Getsy (now the Chicago Bears offensive coordinator/play-caller). Adam Stenavich was promoted from line coach to coordinator to fill Hackett’s spot, while LaFleur hired — at Rodgers’ suggestion — former Packers assistant Tom Clements to coach the quarterbacks.

“Certainly, there’s been some learning curves along the way. I know I’ve gotten much more involved with some of the things in terms of the planning,” LaFleur said of the changes. “But I think our guys are doing a great job. It’s been fun to dive back into it a little bit more and roll your sleeves up.”

On defense, second-year coordinator Joe Barry has talent all over the field with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kenny Clark, budding elite pass rusher Rashan Gary and a secondary with three top-flight cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes.

“We’ve got a lot of talent. I mean, this is the most talent I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here,” said Clark, the team’s 2016 first-round pick. “We can be as good as we want to be. Every single level has Pro Bowl-caliber, All Pro-caliber players. We could be as good as we want to be.”

Put it all together, and the 2022 Packers look like the kind of team that will endure some early-season ups-and-downs but could coalesce late in the season into the kind of team other contenders want no part of in the playoffs — even if Green Bay can’t earn the home-field advantage it had over the past two postseasons.

“We’ll see how it all plays out,” Cobb said. “I’m not getting any younger, Aaron’s not getting any younger, and I think we all know that and understand that.

“I’ve been to a few NFC Championship Games, I’ve made the playoffs a lot — and I don’t have anything to show for it. It’s unfortunate, but that’s a matter of fact.

“We’re doing everything we can to put ourselves in the best position we can be in. You just have to just take it a day at a time, a game at a time and let all the pieces play out.”

Roster moves

Just hours after news broke that seven-time Pro Bowl wideout Julio Jones had signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after reportedly being pursued by Green Bay, the Packers placed veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins on the non-football injury list, according to the league’s transaction wire.

It’s unclear what injury Watkins, whose career has been marred by durability issues, suffered and when, but the NFI designation would indicate it happened while training on his own sometime after he took part in the June mandatory minicamp. Presumably the injury became apparent during his required pre-camp physical.

This means the 2014 No. 4 overall draft pick won’t take part in Wednesday’s first practice of camp, though he still counts against the 90-man roster and is eligible to start practicing whenever he’s deemed ready. But it’s not a great sign for a player who admitted in June he hasn’t done a good enough job preventing injuries during his career.

“I can’t stop injuries. What I can try to do is prevent them,” Watkins said. “That’s been the knock on my career — to stay on the field. I think this is the best place to stay healthy, stay on the field and catch a lot of balls.”

Meanwhile, the Packers also did some bottom-of-the-roster shuffling on the eve of the first practice of camp, signing center Ty Clary, wide receiver Osirus Mitchell and cornerback Donte Vaughn while releasing defensive lineman Hauati Pututau, safety Tre Sterling and cornerback Raleigh Texada.

Clary, an undrafted rookie from Arkansas, was with the Miami Dolphins this spring; Mitchell spent last season on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad as an undrafted free agent from Mississippi State before playing in the USFL with the Birmingham Stallions this spring; and Vaughn entered the league out of Notre Dame as a 2020 undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Packers also added veteran safety Dallin Leavitt on Monday.

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