GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers isn’t backing down from his spring assessment that there shouldn’t be a “grace period” for the Green Bay Packers in Year 1 of the Matt LaFleur era. The veteran quarterback still thinks the team should expect to be a playoff and Super Bowl contender, and not use the we-have-a-first-year-coach excuse if it doesn’t come together.
But Rodgers sure sounded Sunday like a guy trying to tamp down expectations for LaFleur’s innovative offense and make sure no lasting judgments would be made about the Packers’ new scheme if it doesn’t light up the Soldier Field scoreboard during Thursday night’s opener against the Chicago Bears.
“It’s so new, it’s so different than what we’ve done in the past,” Rodgers said. “I think it will be fun to kind of lay it out there on Thursday, work through the stuff that we’ve been working so hard on in practice and make teams (see) that when they play Green Bay it’s not just what they’ve seen for years — which was tough to stop.
“Now, we’re throwing new things at them with personnel groupings and motions and alignments and movement and adjustments that (opposing defenses) haven’t seen from us. So I’m excited for the opportunity. I’m obviously really hopeful that we’re going to go out and play really well, but I do really feel like this is just the beginning for this offense and there’ll be a lot of room to grow regardless of our performance on Thursday.
“Which, for myself and our squad, I expect us to play really well. But I think there’s going to be a lot of room for growth within the scheme as we go on in the season.”
Earlier in his 16-minute session with reporters, Rodgers was asked if he was excited to unveil the new scheme after not playing a single preseason snap and after the Packers stuck to the blandest version of the system during exhibition games.
“I think everybody needs to understand this is going to be the first iteration of our offense. And because it’s a new scheme and there are new pieces, this is going to grow from this point,” Rodgers said. “I’m excited about the stuff we have in and the stuff we’ve been working on in camp. There’s going to be even more. I think that’s the exciting part.
“I like the foundational start for this offense. I think it could be tough to stop because of the stress it puts on the defense with their eye control and pattern-reading and reading the alignments. But we have a lot of room to grow from what we put on the field on Thursday.”
One thing Rodgers was insistent upon: That LaFleur’s decision to hold him out of the four preseason games would not backfire. Rodgers had been slated to play at Baltimore on Aug. 15 before experiencing back tightness the day before the game. And he was set to see action on Aug. 22 against the Oakland Raiders in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but field issues scuttled that plan and LaFleur trusted his “gut” and sat Rodgers and a host of other starters.
“Look, I will say this. If we go out and we struggle, it has nothing to do with playing meaningless reps in the preseason. I really believe that,” Rodgers said. “You’re not facing a ton of game-like situations in the preseason. If we go out and light it up, it’s not because we rested in the preseason. Our performance will be based on our preparation this week, our experience, and the way we execute on the field.
“And same for them. If they go out and play great, their offense or their defense, play great on one side of the ball or play bad on one side of the ball, it’s about execution in an intense environment, first game of the year. We’ll be ready to play and we hope we can execute against a really good defense.”
Cornerback Kevin King, sidelined since Aug. 2 with a hamstring injury, was back practicing and even dancing between drills. And he was talking big, too.
“It felt good. It was good getting back out there,” King said, adding that there is “no doubt” he’ll play Thursday night. “Am I rusty? Nah, I ain’t rusty.”
King was having a strong camp before the injury, but the reality is that his first two NFL seasons have been marked by constant injuries. Out of 32 possible games, he’s missed more games (17) than he’s played (15).
Asked what to expect from him if he stays healthy, King replied, “Super Bowls.”
Tight end Jimmy Graham (finger) returned to practice, as did offensive lineman Cole Madison (ankle). … Cornerback Ka’dar Hollman and linebacker James Crawford practiced but didn’t take part in contact drills. … Inside linebacker Oren Burks, wide receiver Darrius Shepherd, tight end Jace Sternberger and defensive end Fadol Brown did not practice. … The Packers set their 10-player practice squad and all 10 players were with them in training camp: tight end Evan Baylis, running back Tra Carson, cornerback Kabion Ento, wide receivers Allen Lazard and Malik Taylor, defensive tackle James Looney, offensive tackle Yosh Nijman, linebackers Randy Ramsey and Brady Sheldon, and quarterback Manny Wilkins.
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