GREEN BAY — With a new offense to master and a new play-caller to get on the same wavelength with, Aaron Rodgers has said several times this offseason he expects to play more in this preseason than he has in recent years.
But based on what new coach Matt LaFleur said Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers quarterback isn’t likely to suit up for the team’s Aug. 8 preseason opener against the Houston Texans. At least, not if he gets the work LaFleur is hoping he will during the Packers’ two joint practices with the Texans next Monday and Tuesday.
“I think it’s just something we’re going to evaluate each week and see where we are, see how much work we need to get in,” LaFleur said after Tuesday’s practice. “But we’ve got Houston coming next week, and hopefully we get enough good work within those practices to maybe rest him that first preseason game.”
Rodgers scarcely played in preseason the past three summers as ex-coach Mike McCarthy curtailed his most important players’ snap counts in the wake of Pro Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson’s season-ending knee injury in 2015’s third preseason game at Pittsburgh.
Rodgers, who played eight series (69 snaps) in the 2014 preseason, played five offensive series (45 snaps) in 2015, two series (26 snaps) in 2016 and three series (26 snaps) in 2017. Last year, Rodgers played only one offensive series (seven snaps).
In contrast, in 2012 — the summer after Rodgers won his first NFL MVP — Rodgers played 14 offensive series and 79 snaps.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Tuesday morning it’s completely up to LaFleur and his staff to mete out playing time in preseason. But, Gutekunst said, the joint practices with the Texans do offer a unique opportunity for competitive work without the danger of the full-fledged tackling of a game. The Packers haven’t had joined practices with another team since 2005, when then-coach Mike Sherman brought the Buffalo Bills to town during Rodgers’ rookie season.
“It allows your kind of your 1s to take valuable reps against another team without exposing your quarterback to injury,” Gutekunst said. “I think that’s really valuable as an organization.”
Jones ‘getting a lot of opportunities’
Third-year safety Josh Jones may have skipped the team’s voluntary offseason workouts to demonstrate his unhappiness with his role on the team — and was hoping to be traded or released so he could get a fresh start elsewhere — but it appears he’s still in the plans on defense moving forward. He’s worked in the slot in the dime package and has also seen time at inside linebacker in sub defenses, too.
“I think Josh has had a really good beginning to camp. In four days, he’s shown up and made some plays,” Gutekunst said. “Obviously the physical gifts are all there and he’s getting a lot of opportunities and I think there are some really positive signs that he can really help our football team.
“We’ve got a long way to go and a lot of competition in that back end right now, but yeah, it’s been really positive to see him out there doing what he’s doing.”
Meanwhile, rookie first-round pick Darnell Savage, slated to start at safety alongside veteran free agent pick-up Adrian Amos, remained sidelined for his fifth straight practice following a wisdom tooth extraction just before camp. LaFleur said he was actually hoping Savage would be cleared during the players’ day off Monday and be on the field Tuesday, but that didn’t happen. Now, LaFleur said, he’ll have to be eased into the action after how long he’s been out.
“I think he’s close,” LaFleur said. “(It’s) nothing that we’re really concerned about long-term, but I think when he does come back, we’ll kind of climatize him back into the fold. But, when somebody’s out, it’s a great opportunity for somebody else. And those are good reps that those other guys are getting, and I think they’re starting to show some promise.”
Veteran kicker Mason Crosby (calf) remains sidelined but his challenger, Sam Ficken, seems to be doing more to hurt his chances than help them while Crosby is out. Ficken missed another kick on Tuesday, going 3-for-4 with a miss from 45 yards out. He’s now 11-for-14 in camp while Crosby remains on the non-football injury list. … LaFleur said there were no new injuries to report, but Crosby, Savage, backup right tackle Jason Spriggs (trapezius), running back Jamaal Williams (hamstring), defensive lineman Fadol Brown (calf), cornerback Josh Jackson (foot), linebacker Kendall Donnerson (hamstring) and linebacker Greg Roberts (core muscle injury) remained sidelined. … New running back Darrin Hall, claimed off of waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, took part in his first practice.