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Virtual meetings, impromptu passes and real challenges: Aaron Rodgers acknowledges oddities of disjointed offseason
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Virtual meetings, impromptu passes and real challenges: Aaron Rodgers acknowledges oddities of disjointed offseason

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“The first couple weeks of the offseason, there’s not really any throwing, but I wanted to make sure by the time May hit that I was into my normal throwing routine," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "I’ve been ramping that up."

GREEN BAY — Even with NFL facilities gradually reopening this week — although the Green Bay Packers held off on doing so at Lambeau Field on Tuesday — all 32 teams’ offseason programs will continue to be virtual in nature for the rest of May.

Aaron Rodgers mug

Rodgers

That means Aaron Rodgers and his fellow Southern California residents will have to continue their at-home weight-room workouts and finding random nearby open spaces to run and play catch.

“The biggest change has been feeling like a kid throwing the football at the park,” Rodgers said during a conference call with Wisconsin reporters last week, when he addressed a variety of topics beyond the team’s decision to draft his heir apparent, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, in the first round of the NFL draft.

Rodgers has spent most of his offseasons working out at Los Angeles-area based Proactive Sports Performance, where teammates David Bakhtiari and Kenny Clark are among the NFL players who train there. With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing teams from kicking off their traditional offseason programs in person last month as they normally would, Rodgers has been doing much of his weight training in his home gym while getting together with his various NFL workout partners — properly socially distanced, of course — for throwing and conditioning sessions.

“You have to find different places to get some of these workouts in,” Rodgers said. “So, there’s been places like that, to get our running in, our agility in with our group, and then finding places to throw the ball. We’ve got a couple good places now to throw it. But it’s just been different, I think, for everybody. I’ve got a lot of workout gear at the house, so I’ve been able to work out at my house for a while.”

The team-oriented component of workouts has been Zoom meetings and pre-recorded presentations by coach Matt LaFleur, with those downloadable quasi-meetings available for players to view on iPads at their convenience. Rodgers praised LaFleur’s assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, offensive line coach Adam Stenavich, running backs coach Ben Sirmans and quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Luke Getsy for making the potentially boring meetings more lively.

“The most fun has been to see the coaches’ personalities come out in some of these installs because Matt has given different coaches different responsibilities,” Rodgers said. “Some of them are kind of straight-down-the-line (in their presentations), and then you got a guy like Adam Stenavich who brings some really funny slides and humor and video to his presentations.

“Nate Hackett is a wild man. He’s so much fun. I laugh with him about (what it must be like for) a young rookie watching these meetings, watching Nate and his personality and wondering who the hell this guy is. And then there’s breakout meetings within our position groups that we’ve been doing as well, and then Matt and Nate and I have been meeting regularly also.”

It’s been in those meetings that LaFleur, Hackett, Getsy and Rodgers have been working to fine-tune the offense and talking about adjustments in the scheme as they head into Year 2 of the system.

“It’s been great having these Zoom meetings,” LaFleur said. “It’s allowed myself, Hackett, Getsy and Aaron to have a lot of one-on-ones, which we definitely value Aaron’s input into what we’re doing because we definitely want him to feel comfortable with whatever it is we’re asking him to do.”

Matt LaFleur mug

LaFleur

LaFleur kicked off the offseason program with a live Zoom call in which he estimated close to 100 players, coaches and support staff logged on.

“You never quite know what to expect. But I thought it went well,” LaFleur said. “It wasn’t too long. I think it was like 10 or 12 minutes. (I) just really tried to highlight what exactly the expectations were and the objectives of this virtual offseason. Then we followed up those team meetings with pre-recorded team meetings that we pushed to their iPads.”

LaFleur acknowledged that he had some reservations as to how effective virtual meetings and messaging would be amid the coronavirus, but he praised director of football technology Mike Halbach for his work — “We’ve gotten really good from a technical standpoint, and the support staff that we have has been absolutely incredible,” LaFleur said — and also praised the coaches for their creative approaches. He also said there’s been a fringe benefit to the video presentations.

“You make these videos, and they take a lot longer than you would normally just prepare to go out, go down and present in front of the team,” LaFleur said. “But it’s given us a great opportunity as coaches to watch ourselves. And we’re always constantly evaluating our players, but you do a lot of self-evaluation now in terms of, how effectively do you communicate? So I think it’s been a great tool for our coaches.”

For Rodgers, meanwhile, the focus has been both on getting up to speed with scheme changes while also getting to where he needs to be physically in advance of training camp — whether that begins in late July as it normally does or the schedule is altered by continued coronavirus-related challenges. As far as getting his right arm ready, Rodgers said those workouts in the park have been critical.

“There’s a couple guys out here that I’ve been able to throw to a couple times a week, so I’m definitely keeping my arm in shape,” he said. “The first couple weeks of the offseason, there’s not really any throwing, but I wanted to make sure by the time May hit that I was into my normal throwing routine. I’ve been ramping that up and getting those opportunities to do that with some of the guys — professional guys that live out in the Los Angeles area.


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