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No offseason, no problems? So far in camp, Aaron Rodgers ‘just in total command out there’
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PACKERS TRAINING CAMP

No offseason, no problems? So far in camp, Aaron Rodgers ‘just in total command out there’

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers enjoys a moment with wide receivers Davante Adams and Randall Cobb during practice Saturday in Green Bay.

GREEN BAY — Amari Rodgers had heard stories about The Legend. Lots of stories, but still — only stories.

From his mentor, Randall Cobb, who called him shortly after the Green Bay Packers picked Rodgers in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. From Davante Adams, who has gone from a rookie himself in 2014 to the NFL’s best wideout. From Marquez Valdes-Scantling and the other veteran wide receivers, who warned the rookie during the offseason program that he hadn’t seen anything yet.

“Everybody was like, ‘When 12 gets here,’” Rodgers recounted Saturday, “’it’s just going to be different.’”

He had no idea, of course. The news that “12” — quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the three-time NFL MVP and future Pro Football Hall of Famer — was unhappy with the organization had broken roughly 24 hours before Amari Rodgers had heard his name called on draft day, and he’d come to camp still uncertain about who’d be throwing him the football.

That changed on Tuesday, when Aaron Rodgers reported to camp on time. By Saturday, after four practices with the reigning MVP, the rookie fully grasped the level of greatness he was working with — especially after being on the receiving end of one of the quarterback’s patented no-look passes.

“I ain’t going to lie, I wasn’t even ready for it,” Amari Rodgers confessed with a sheepish laugh. “But, being a receiver, you’ve got to be able to react to stuff like that. I caught it, but it kind of caught me off-guard. I’d seen it a couple times before he did it to me. When he did it to me, I was like, ‘Dang.’ It’s different when it’s actually you catching a no-look pass vs. seeing somebody catch it.

“It was pretty cool. I’m looking forward to catching more of those.”

While coach Matt LaFleur has put Aaron Rodgers on a pitch count during camp — the first time in his 17-year career that that’s happened — the 37-year-old has shown absolutely no signs of rust after skipping the entire offseason program (including the mandatory minicamp in June) while in a standoff with the team’s front office.

From a jaw-dropping 60-yard strike to Adams on the first play of team drills on Friday, to a gorgeous only-where-my-guy-can-get-it touchdown throw to Adams later in that practice on a corner route in red zone drills (one of four TD passes on four straight plays) to an effortless on-the-run, off-balance 40-yard laser to Adams during an 11-on-11 period on Saturday, Rodgers has looked as sharp as ever so far in camp.

“I mean, he’s the best in the game. It’s Aaron Rodgers. There’s no other way to put it,” Valdes-Scantling said after practice Saturday. “The things he can do with the football is unheard of and unreal. Obviously, he’s been in this game for a long time and he knows what he’s doing. I don’t care what he does in the offseason, he’s going to come in and be ready to throw a football at any given time from any angle.”

Added safety Darnell Savage, who was in coverage on that 40-yard completion to Adams: “He can make throws that not many other people would even attempt to make. That’s not something that you lose. You either really have it or you don’t. Obviously, he has it. He’s a special talent.”

Now, four practices do not a successful training camp make, whether you’re a rookie receiver like one Rodgers or a gray-in-the-beard quarterback like the other one. But during his first 16 NFL seasons, dating back to his rookie year of 2005, Rodgers had never missed an offseason, so how sharp he’d be once his problems with the front office were resolved enough for him to return was a valid question.

So much for that being an issue.

“Just in total command out there, the same thing we’ve seen the last two years,” LaFleur said. “I mean, shoot. Aaron, his accuracy — and you see it show up in practice — it’s just the little things that you sometimes take for granted. The little run alerts, and just how perfect the ball-placement is to allow these guys to get the max yardage on whatever it is. He is so accurate, and he’s got great anticipation.

“We coach all those (quarterbacks) the same way in terms of the timing and decision-making, and then it’s on them to make the accurate throw. But he can fit it in some tight spots and he’s been doing it at a high level for a long time.”

After the players have Sunday off, the Packers will have one more helmets-and-shorts practice Monday before working in pads and shorts on Tuesday. As installations continue and full pads come on, the intensity of practices will increase, leading into next Saturday’s Family Night practice inside Lambeau Field. And the younger Rodgers can’t wait to see what the old man dishes out next.

“It’s been amazing,” Amari Rodgers said. “Seeing how many no-look passes he throws, how many touchdowns he throws, it’s all dots. It’s just amazing that I have the opportunity to play with him and have the opportunity to make those plays, too. If I’m given the opportunity, I’m ready and just trying to earn his trust so when I get my opportunity, I can help the team win.”

For everything Aaron Rodgers said about his differences of opinion with the front office during his more than half-hour Q&A session with reporters following the first practice of camp, he also emphasized that he hasn’t lost sight of the fact that, by returning for his 17th season in Green Bay, he’s on the verge of outlasting both of the other legendary quarterbacks who came before him — Bart Starr and Brett Favre, both of whom played 16 seasons with the Packers.

Despite the drama of the offseason, he insisted he’s still appreciative of his status. So far in camp, his actions have matched those words.

“It’s still an honor. It’s still something I’m very proud of,” he said. “I did see something about Favrey and Bart playing 16 (years) here, and this is obviously No. 17 (for me). So there’s something special about that. I’ve been here a long time, seen a lot of change … and it’s been fun to be a part of a change.

“This has always been a special thing for me to be the quarterback and I’m really thankful to be back here as a 14th season as the starter.”

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