Training camps across the NFL are well underway and the battles are beginning to play out. There are many reasons to pay attention to what happens on the practice field. There can be significant injuries, players who are surprising, others who don’t look sharp, and those who are putting their stamp on a job. There are also comeback stories and players to watch for a whole host of reasons.
Here are ten players whose training camp performance bears watching closely.
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
After missing all of the 2017 season with a shoulder injury, Andrew Luck returned in 2018 and put on a show. He bounced back with 39 touchdown passes and a career-best 430 completions and 67.3 completion percentage while leading the Colts to a 10-6 record and playoff appearance. Everything looked good for 2019, but now Luck is dealing with a calf injury that has kept him out of minicamp and the start of training camp. The Colts better hope Luck is healthy in time for Week 1. If not, it would be Jacoby Brissett time.
Aaron Rodgers may not be given the same amount of freedom in head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense that some other top quarterbacks across the NFL get, and Brett Favre thinks that would be the wrong approach for the new coaching staff to take.
While speaking with reporters at the American Family Insurance Championship pro-am on Saturday, Favre said he is confident Rodgers is going to be “fine” but expressed some concerns over LaFleur and company potentially micromanaging him.
“The question is, how will they handle it with him. And obviously, that’s very important,” Favre said of Green Bay’s new staff, per James Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I mean, there’s more to the team than Aaron but we all have to admit that when he’s playing and playing well, which generally when he’s playing he is playing well, you don’t want to change what’s working. There’s other factors that you have to work on.
“I think you let him play his game and not disturb that very much. And it’s going to be interesting to see if that happens.”
LaFleur made a name for himself while working with Kyle and Mike Shanahan, and the system the Shanahans run does not grant a quarterback much freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage. Rodgers recently hinted that he is not on-board with that approach, though LaFleur insists the two have already had “good talks” about the offense.
Rodgers disagreed with McCarthy’s playcalling quite regularly toward the end of McCarthy’s career in Green Bay, and he reportedly took the liberty of changing some of those plays against the coach’s wishes. LaFleur probably doesn’t want him doing that, but Rodgers has earned more leeway than someone like Jared Goff or Marcus Mariota. It will be up to LaFleur to find the balance.
Aaron Rodgers raised some eyebrows earlier in the week when a seemingly critical quote about his freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
New coach Matt LaFleur’s offensive system, by default, grants a quarterback less freedom to make adjustments at the line. That did not seem to go over well with Rodgers, who has made a living of doing such things over the course of his career.
"I don't think you want me to turn off 11 years. There's stuff that not many people in the league can do at the line. That's not a humble brag. That's just a fact." Rodgers to @MikeSilver on LaFleuer's system not having a ton of freedom at the LOS for the QB.
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) June 14, 2019
LaFleur told Michael Silver of NFL.com that he and Rodgers have had “good talks” about balancing Rodgers’ skills with his preferred offensive system, but they need to keep working on it.
“Aaron and I have had some good talks, and we’re going to have to talk a lot more — and one thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur said. “We’re running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle (Shanahan) in Houston a decade ago, and we’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up. But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He’s had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that, and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?”
There have been reports — denied by Rodgers — that he actively undermined his previous coach. True or not, it gives an added layer of intrigue to stories like this and whether Rodgers can work well with another coach who has his own offensive philosophy.
Aaron Rodgers signed a massive contract extension with the Green Bay Packers last offseason that guarantees him around $100 million, and he is using some of that money to improve the football program that helped make him an NFL MVP.
On Tuesday, the University of California, Berkeley announced that Rodgers has made a seven-figure donation to the football program. The money will be used to improve the football team’s facilities and create the Aaron Rodgers Scholarship Fund.
“I’m pleased and proud to make this gift to support Cal football,” Rodgers said in a statement. “My years at Cal were among the best years of my life. My time in Berkeley created lasting, unforgettable memories. Coach Wilcox was on the coaching staff when I was a Bear, and I am excited about the team’s direction with Justin pointing the way. He is a tremendous football coach and an even better role model for his players. I hope that my contribution can help him move this program forward.”
Rodgers has been very generous since signing his new deal, as he also pledged $1 million to the relief efforts for the devastating California wildfires last year. That inspired others — including some major corporations — to make similar donations on his behalf.
Cal is looking to get back on track after going 12-13 in its first two seasons under head coach Justin Wilcox. Rodgers led the team to an 18-8 record in his two years at the Golden Bears’ starter in 2003 and 2004.
Aaron Rodgers may take comfort in the fact that he is better than most other NFL quarterbacks at football even if they can smoke him in a beer-chugging competition, but he’ll have a tough time making that argument against Tom Brady.
The New England Patriots held an event on Thursday night during which they received their Super Bowl rings, and Brady found himself in a chug-off with his center, David Andrews. Those who are familiar with Brady’s chugging prowess can guess how it went.
Brady chugging beers now 😂
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 7, 2019
There are many tales of Brady dominating beer-chugging competitions, and he has apparently not forgotten how despite living his very clean and strict TB12 lifestyle.
Rodgers, of course, embarrassed himself while trying to chug a beer at a Milwaukee Bucks Eastern Conference Finals game last month. That led to other quarterbacks showing off how much better they are than Rodgers at it, and Rodgers responded with a subtle shot at their football abilities. That comeback won’t fly with a six-time Super Bowl champion.
Aaron Rodgers has been relentlessly mocked since he failed to successfully chug a beer when he attended an Eastern Conference Finals game last month, but it sounds like the two-time NFL MVP is tired of hearing it from rival quarterbacks.
A reporter asked Rodgers at minicamp on Tuesday about the flak he has taken for his chugging skills, some of which has come from other players at his position. Rodgers response was essentially that he is better at things that matter more, such as making plays on the football field.
#Packers QB Aaron Rodgers jokes about the chugging prowess shown by other NFL QBs:
"For some of them, there’s finally a talent where they can say they are better than me." #Packers
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) June 4, 2019
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was one of the first to show off how much better he is than Rodgers at slamming a beer, and Mitchell Trubisky also has Rodgers beat.
— Kyle Long (@Ky1eLong) June 1, 2019
The trolling has even extended to other sports, so you can understand why Rodgers finally felt the need to defend himself. Unfortunately, the football side of things has not gone too well for the Packers in recent years, either. Perhaps that will change in 2019 and people will forget all about Rodgers’ struggles with putting back suds.
- Aaron Rodgers
Even the Chicago White Sox are trolling Aaron Rodgers over his weak beer chug.
Several members of the Chicago Bears attended Friday night’s White Sox-Cleveland Indians game. While at the game, they were shown on the video board at Guaranteed Rate Field doing a simultaneous beer chug.
When the White Sox shared the video on Twitter, they tagged Rodgers and told him “this is how you get it done.”
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) June 1, 2019
The tweet is a reference to Rodgers’ weak effort to chug a beer while attending Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 24, 2019
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford showed up Rodgers after seeing that. Now Mitch Trubisky has too. Kirk Cousins is next up on the list.