GREEN BAY — Back in 2012, not long after he’d won a Super Bowl title and his first NFL MVP award, Aaron Rodgers starred in a series of television commercials looking to pump up ticket sales for the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers.
From Rodgers using an unconventional wind-up on the pitcher’s mound (dropping back to pass like he does in his real job), to showing off his Super Bowl ring, to crushing batting practice pitches thrown by the Hot Dog from the famous Sausage Race, the ads went viral and were definitely chuckle-worthy.
Now, though, with the Brewers in the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Packers looking to get their collective act together after a 2-2-1 start, the quarterback is hoping his team can take a cue from the streaking Brewers, who had won 11 straight games entering Friday night’s Game 1.
“It’s fun to see the Brewers come back. They obviously had a few down years, but they’ve got a great owner and great management and (manager) Craig (Counsell) has done a great job with the squad,” Rodgers said. “I think there’s a good mix (on the roster). With any great team, a good mix of veteran leadership and then you find that right piece — (outfielder Christian) Yelich, who’s had an MVP-type season — and it all just comes together.
“And, I think we can do here, when you just start to get that momentum going and that confidence up, it’s contagious. So we’ve got to find that feeling again in this locker room and get rolling.”
Tight end Lance Kendricks, who grew up in Milwaukee and played at the University of Wisconsin, used to proudly wear his Brewers hat while playing for the St. Louis Rams. Now in his second year with his home-state team, Kendricks has been living and dying with his favorite baseball team.
“I try to catch every game whether it’s on TV or whether it’s just on my phone,” Kendricks said. “I used to love going to the games, the playoff games especially, because the atmosphere is just ridiculous. They’re fun to watch.”
Kendricks, who makes his offseason home in Southern California and works out with Rodgers there, was hoping to be home from Lambeau Field on Friday night and done with his game preparations for the Packers’ Monday Night game against the San Francisco 49ers in time for Game 1’s first pitch. And with the Packers having their bye next week, Kendricks wants to score tickets to attend Game 4 at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.
“They’re an outstanding team,” Kendricks said of the Brewers. “It’s crazy to see they have so much talent, and young talent at that. I’m just excited for them to even make it this far.”
Rodgers, who grew up in northern California, is now a minority owner of the Bucks and said he enjoys rooting for all Wisconsin teams. He isn’t a dyed-in-the-wool Brewers fan like Kendricks, but he is a lifelong baseball fan and was a pretty good high school pitcher before focusing on football.
“On our old TV, the teams that were on the most were WGN and the (Chicago) Cubs, and TBS and the (Atlanta) Braves. So those are the teams you saw the most,” Rodgers said. “I was a big fan of the (Greg) Maddux-(Tom) Glavine-(John) Smoltz (pitching rotation), and especially those commercials they made, ‘Chicks dig the long ball.’ And I’ve gotten to know Greg over the years. He’s a great guy to spend time with.
“But living in northern California, you obviously had the Giants and the A’s there. So in ’89 when I was just a youngster, but still a big sports fan even at 5, it was fun to have the Giants and the A’s in the World Series.”
The Packers added starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) and backup Jason Spriggs (ankle) to the injury report on Friday.
It was unclear when Bulaga’s knee issue came up, as he was not on the field with his teammates during the early portion of practice open to reporters. He was listed as having been a limited participant. Spriggs, meanwhile, went down with his injury toward the end of the open portion of practice and was seen being attended to by the team’s athletic training and medical staff, and later carted back to the stadium.
“I don’t really have a whole lot of information,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said after practice. “We’ll see what happens in the next couple days and go from there.”
Earlier in the day, coach Mike McCarthy had said that veteran Byron Bell, who joined the team as a free agent during the offseason, would continue starting at right guard after making the start there the past two weeks for Justin McCray. McCray, who was out with a shoulder injury, appears to be healthy enough to start at right guard or right tackle — wherever Bell wouldn’t be — if Bulaga and Spriggs are out. McCray was listed as a full participant in practice.
“(Bell has) been consistent. He has a lot of experience,” McCarthy said. “Byron has played a lot of football. I think just really his transition here, (he had to) get used to how we do things, and the connection you’ve got to have between the center and the right tackle. I go back to training camp where the linemen didn’t really practice a lot together. It’s just some newness to him. He’s comfortable, and I like the job that he’s done.”
From the infirmary
Wide receivers Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Geronimo Allison (hamstring) were each listed as limited participants in practice and their status for Monday night remains unclear.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to get back on the field,” said Cobb, who has missed the past two games. “Just hoping to continue to make progress. We’ll see on Sunday what that means when we get there. It’s a daily process for me right now.”
Rodgers, despite saying he had a “setback” with his injured left knee against Detroit, was able to practice in full on Friday. So was tight end Jimmy Graham, who returned after resting his knee Thursday.
Defensive backs Jaire Alexander (groin), Jermaine Whitehead (back), Bashaud Breeland (hamstring) and Kentrell Brice (ankle) each practiced on a limited basis. Cornerback Kevin King (chin) was able to practice in full for the second straight day.