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Friday, September 20, 2019

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers testing new strategy to speed up Packers’ offense

Aaron Rodgers

The Green Bay Packers weren’t thrilled with how their offense performed in their 10-3 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 1, and they’re trying some new things to make it better now.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers tested a new strategy during practice Friday by wearing a wristband with coach Matt LaFleur’s lengthy playcalls on his wrist in a bid to speed up the tempo of the offense.

“It gets [the play] out of my mouth a lot faster, I’ll tell you that much,” LaFleur said Friday, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN. “So yeah, maybe it helps me get him the play a little bit quicker.”

LaFleur would not guarantee that Rodgers would use the cheat sheet in Sunday’s game. On Wednesday, however, Rodgers had said that increasing the tempo was a huge focus for the Packers during practices.

“We do have some long calls in the plan — that’s just the way the offense is,” Rodgers said. “There’s a number of checks for different plays. It’s getting that call in and repeating it and going out there and trying to execute as quickly as possible. The great thing about this offense and the communication is we had a great debrief Monday and Tuesday about everything. We made some subtle changes to hopefully help with some of that tempo.”

There was nothing excessively wrong with Rodgers’ performance in Week 1, as he went 18-of-30 for 203 yards and a touchdown. It was clear he and his teammates were still getting used to the offense, though, and moving a bit too deliberately to be truly effective. They were still better than the Bears, though, which was all that mattered.

Aaron Rodgers gave Mike Pettine a huge congratulatory shove after stellar opener

Aaron Rodgers Mike Pettine

The Green Bay Packers’ defense looked awesome on Thursday night, and nobody was happier about it than Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers celebrated the Packers defense clinching the 10-3 win over the Chicago Bears by giving defensive coordinator Mike Pettine a huge shove. The shove was done in a congratulatory way, demonstrating how impressed Rodgers was.

Other Packers players also recognized what Pettine had done:

Rodgers continued his approval during his interview with NBC’s Michele Tafoya after the game.

“We got a defense,” Rodgers said twice.

The Packers haven’t had a top-10 defense since 2010, the season they won the Super Bowl. You can see the excitement and relief in Rodgers’ eyes over having a defense that can help them win games.

Now that they’ve got their defense squared away, the Packers need to figure out their offense, because that was lacking on Thursday night.

Akiem Hicks avoids penalty for late tackle on Aaron Rodgers

Akiem Hicks

Is this the new and improved NFL? One play from the second half of Thursday night’s Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game may suggest so.

Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks took down Aaron Rodgers just after the Packers quarterback threw away a ball in the third quarter. Hicks wrapped his arms around Rodgers near the quarterback’s neck and took him down roughly.

That is the same kind of play that probably would have drawn a flag last year for roughing the passer. We saw bogus penalty calls on much less.

Football Zebras, a Twitter account pertaining to NFL referees, shared why they believe no infraction was called.

Back when Clay Matthews was getting called for all sorts of penalties last season, Rodgers stood up for defenders and spoke out against the penalty calls. Keep that in mind before you complain about the lack of a call, Packers fans.

A league that uses common sense and doesn’t penalize defenders for continuing their momentum with a tackle but not doing so excessively is one we like to see.

Top 5 contenders to win NFL MVP

Aaron Rodgers

Expectations are high for many NFL teams and players entering the season. Some players, though, can dream of more than just leading their team to a Super Bowl. A select few are favored to win the MVP award, recognizing a season of individual greatness.

This award usually goes to a quarterback, and it usually goes to someone on a winning team. Neither of these are prerequisites, of course, but they’re simply the most likely outcome. So which five players are the early favorites to claim the award? Here are some names to consider.

5) Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns

Mayfield’s rookie year made everyone salivate over his ceiling. It’s only a matter of question whether he can reach it. In his first NFL year, he threw 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with 3,725 yards passing. The addition of Odell Beckham Jr. has led to greater expectations of the Browns this year, and Mayfield will be looked to as a leader. If the Browns do what many believe they are capable of, Mayfield could shoot to the forefront of the MVP debate in his second season.

4) Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles

Health will be vital for Wentz, who hasn’t played 16 games since 2016. He may well have won an MVP in 2017 if not for a season-ending injury. The Eagles should be contenders again in 2019, and Wentz has shown that as long as he’s healthy, he’s capable of putting up huge numbers. Despite two injury-plagued seasons, he’s hit 3,000 yards both times. If he can play all 16 games, 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns are within the realm of possibility. Those are MVP-like numbers.

3) Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

Rodgers played through a knee injury most of last season and was not his usual accurate self. Though he threw for 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions, his 62.3 completion percentage was his second-lowest career mark since taking over as the Packers’ starter. Green Bay stumbled to a 6-9-1 season that cost Mike McCarthy his job. Now it’s up to Matt LaFleur to bring out the best in Rodgers and see if the quarterback can return to the MVP form he displayed in 2011 and 2014. We’re envisioning a major improvement from last season.

2) Drew Brees, QB, Saints

Brees actually posted the worst numbers of his Saints career last year, falling short of 4,000 yards for the first time. He would’ve made it had he played in all 16 games, and he still threw 32 touchdowns, suggesting that the magic is not gone. The Saints are going to be talented as ever, and they’ll lean heavily on Brees to move the offense. There’s every chance he returns to the 4,000-yard plateau while throwing a ton of touchdown passes.

1) Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs

After he delivered 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns passing last season, expectations are sky high for Mahomes in 2019. If he can do anything close to that again while leading the Chiefs to the playoffs and beyond, he has every chance of winning the award again. There’s no reason he can’t — while some regression may be inevitable, he has all the tools to be elite and the weapons around him to put up truly outrageous stat lines. For now, Mahomes is the favorite to retain his MVP award — it will take some effort and probably a step back on his part for someone to take it from him.

Aaron Rodgers discusses how long he intends to play

Aaron Rodgers

Could Aaron Rodgers continue playing quarterback in the NFL into his 40s? He’s not ruling it out.

Rodgers appeared on Friday’s edition of “The Rich Eisen Show” and gave his thoughts on how long he could continue playing. The Packers quarterback initially joked that he’d “win the Super Bowl when I’m 45 and ride off into the sunset,” before suggesting that he’d play as long as he was physically and mentally capable.

“I envision playing as long as my body feels good and I have the love for the game that I do right now,” Rodgers said. “Still fuels me, still the passion, and I still love the daily grind and the practice and the preparation. If I can give everything to a team in that manner and my body feels good, I’m going to keep rolling.”

The question to Rodgers was interesting given how much he empathized with Andrew Luck’s physical issues when the Colts quarterback retired. Rodgers is 35, and figures to have several years left. Statistically, at least, he has shown no sign of slowing down. He passed for 4,442 yards, 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions last season. He is under contract with the Packers through 2023.

Aaron Rodgers felt ‘disgust’ over how Andrew Luck retirement was handled

Aaron Rodgers

Many NFL players have spoken out against Indianapolis Colts fans for booing quarterback Andrew Luck after word leaked of his impending retirement during the team’s preseason game. Aaron Rodgers agrees — but he also wasn’t happy that the news leaked the way it did in the first place.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback admitted he felt “a little disgust” over how the Luck retirement was handled, between word leaking out during the game and the fans’ response to it.

“A little disgust, maybe, at the way that it was handled,” Rodgers told Adam Schein of Mad Dog Sports Radio. “Him getting booed, the word leaking out the way that it did, I thought that was a little disgusting. Because here’s a guy who’s making a quality of life decision, and he’s given a lot to the game. He’s not the 15-year vet, but he’s put himself through a ton just to get back on the field.

“I think he should be championed and appreciated and given the praise he’s due for making a decision that’s in the best interests of himself and his wife and his family, for his own personal quality of life. … I think what he did was actually very unselfish. He could be on IR, and then he’s cashing a paycheck from the Colts without playing.”

Rodgers makes a great point about how word leaked out about Luck’s decision. The original plan was for an announcement to come Sunday, but he was forced to make the announcement after the game when word leaked out. Because of that leak, Colts fans had an ugly moment. That leak was unfair to Luck and should not have happened.

Matt LaFleur has no worries about Aaron Rodgers’ joint practice comments

Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur appears to be handling his relationship with his star quarterback the right way.

Amid speculation that there may be early tension between LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers, Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports reported that the pair are doing well in the early stages. LaFleur is “amused” by the speculation about the relationship, and Rodgers is saying the right things. In addition, LaFleur was unbothered when Rodgers was critical of LaFleur’s joint practices.

In other words, there don’t seem to be any early issues despite a lot of speculation given how Rodgers ended his relationship with ex-coach Mike McCarthy. Rodgers has been very dismissive of a feud and seems tired of the whole story, even if their interactions will remain under a microscope for at least a while yet.