4/30/05 Tom Oates Wisconsin State Journal
GREEN BAY - Both quarterbacks played at California. Both were known for their accuracy in college. Both were picked on the first round of the NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers pray that's all Aaron Rodgers and Rich Campbell have in common.
You see, Campbell, Green Bay's first-round pick 24 years ago, was one of the biggest busts in Packers draft history. Worse, it took only a handful of training camp practices for observers to conclude that his unorthodox throwing motion and lack of velocity wouldn't cut it in the NFL.
That's why all eyes were on Rodgers when he made his practice-field debut Friday, six days after the Packers made him their quarterback of the future. No one expected Rodgers to be the next Brett Favre, but people were understandably wary that he might be the next Rich Campbell.
With one day of practice, Rodgers put those fears to rest.
"I thought he did a very nice job," quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell said. "I would say he was the player that was advertised today."
The same can't be said for Campbell after the Packers passed on future Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott to make him the sixth pick in the 1981 draft. Campbell's flawed delivery was a cross between a shot-putter and a sidearm pitcher. His arm was so weak he often skipped the ball on deep outs, a pattern generally considered the litmus test for NFL quarterbacks.
Rodgers, the 24th player taken in last week's draft, also arrived with a reputation as a touch passer instead of a flame thrower. However, Rodgers showed Friday that if he flops in the NFL, arm strength won't be the reason.
"The ball comes out quick," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said. "He's got great zip."
Compare that to what was being said about Campbell back in the day. While the Packers didn't acknowledge Campbell's shortcomings during his rookie season, that changed when Bob Schnelker was named offensive coordinator in 1982. Never one to mince words, Schnelker watched Campbell for only a few days before he uttered two sentences that doomed Campbell's career.
"At this point, he doesn't show the arm strength it takes to be a fine quarterback in this league," Schnelker said. "He just can't zip the ball out there."
Rodgers didn't throw a deep ball during Friday's practices, but the passes he did throw created a strong first impression. He threw particularly well in individual sessions, not quite as well in team drills.
"Whenever you put him into the team part, his mind is spinning and it's hard to see him do anything with any regularity," Rossley said. "But when he was throwing the individual cuts, you could see that he's got ... I wouldn't say great arm strength, but he's got better arm strength probably than I anticipated. The ball comes out quick and he's got live feet. He looks good."
After just one day of practice, no one can predict how quickly Rodgers will grasp the playbook, how he will react under game conditions, how he will deal with the pressure of following a legend like Favre. But you can get a good idea if he has the physical ability - throwing and moving around - to someday be an NFL starter, and Rodgers clearly does.
So while we don't know yet if he's the next Brett Favre, we do know that he's not the next Rich Campbell.