Saturday, April 30, 2005

Rodgers earns rave reviews

Rookie quarterback Aaron Rodgers drops back to pass during Friday’s workouts at the Green Bay Packers’ minicamp in the Don Hutson Center. Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette
Rookie QB impresses the Packers on 1st day
By Dylan B.
It didn’t take rookie quarterback Aaron Rodgers long to impress his new coaches and Green Bay Packers teammates on Friday morning.
Rodgers was standing in the Don Hutson Center during his first practice as a member of the Packers when be began firing pass after pass to receivers during warmup drills. On each throw, Rodgers showed the kind of quick release and arm strength that is usually seen in Green Bay only when Brett Favre is in town.
After several consecutive completions, offensive coordinator Tom Rossley’s eyes got really big and he couldn’t hide a smile.
“He’s better than I thought he would be, and I thought he would be good,” Rossley said. “I’m very excited that we got him.”
After the Packers took Rodgers in the first round of the NFL draft a week ago, there was much anticipation surrounding the rookie quarterback’s first NFL minicamp. Anticipation quickly turned to excitement as Rodgers did his best to live up to expectations.
“His arm strength is better than I anticipated,” Rossley said. “He gets rid of the ball incredibly quickly. I don’t think there’s a pass he can’t make.”
Packers coach Mike Sherman also said Rodgers’ debut was a success.
“I thought he had a good day, for his first day out of the blocks,” Sherman said. “He threw the ball well. Obviously, we have a long way to go to get him the knowledge of our offense. But I thought he stepped in and played well.”
Quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell gave Rodgers a portion of the Packers’ playbook when he was in town on Sunday, but Rodgers said he was a bit overwhelmed by his first real look at the offense.
“I don’t know anything,” Rodgers said, laughing. “I know it’s going to take a little time.”
As sharp as Rodgers looked throwing during drills, he struggled during team drills, which Rossley said was to be expected.
“When we put him into team, his mind was spinning,” Rossley said. “It can be overwhelming to try to step into this offense on your first day of practice.”
Rodgers didn’t throw many passes during team drills, but receiver Donald Driver said he was impressed with what little he saw from Rodgers.
“It was a chance for him to come out and show what he could do,” Driver said. “So far, so good. The guy can play. He showed us that.”
Rodgers seemed to take the whole day — the practice and the attention — in stride. After the stress of the draft, he said, it was a relief just to step on the football field again.
“It’s been a long period of garbage,” Rodgers said. “There was all of the politicking and campaigning (before the draft) and getting yourself out there by doing all the media. It’s nice to get back to just playing, which is what I do best.”
Rodgers said the process has been made easier because of the presence of tight end Garrett Cross, who played with Rodgers at Butte College and the University of California. Cross signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent.
“We’re rooming together now, and we’re probably going to live together during the season,” Rodgers said. “It’s really nice for both of us. We’re like best friends, and we’ve been through a lot together.”
Cross said he knew the Packers were interested in him before the draft, so when he saw Rodgers slide to the Packers in the first round of the draft, he thought he and Rodgers could remain teammates.
“I thought there was a pretty good chance I could join him here,” Cross said. “It makes it a lot easier for both of us. Coming in here with a friend takes a lot of the pressure away.”
Rodgers had an opportunity to throw a pass to Cross during team drills. Unfortunately for both players, it was Rodgers’ worst throw of the day. It flew over Cross’ head.
“That was the one I wish I had back,” Rodgers said. “My head was going a million different directions, but I wanted to hit that pass.”
Rodgers said he hopes to get better acquainted with the offense during the next two days of minicamp.
After camp is over, Rodgers will return home to Chico, Calif., for a few weeks. He’s expected to return around May 20, which should give him at least a week to work with Bevell and Rossley to learn the offense before the Packers’ second minicamp in early June.
At that camp, Rodgers said, he hopes he’ll finally be able to meet Favre.
“I’ve been thinking about that non-stop ever since I was drafted,” Rodgers said. “I can’t wait to meet him, and I can’t wait to learn from him.”
Dylan B. Tomlinson writes for The Post-Crescent of Appleton.

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