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Perspective on the early bye week

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- One of the problems with having the earliest possible bye week, as the Green Bay Packers did in Week 4, is how long the season might seem from here on out.

"Thirteen straight (games) is going to be a grind for sure," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday during his weekly radio show on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee.

Most of the veteran players in the Packers' locker room probably would agree. At the very least, it will be like nothing any of them have faced. The Packers haven't had a bye this early since 1999, when they also were off in Week 4.

Only the Packers and Carolina Panthers were off last week.

"It's very important how you are playing at the end of the season," Rodgers added on his show. "But it's also important you are able to field a healthy football team. And this situation, just like Carolina is going to be dealing with and teams with a Week 5 bye, because that's early as well, Week 6 is early, teams that have to go 10, 11, 12, 13 straight, it's going to be a more difficult stress on the guys to be healthy come Week 17, when you want to be playing your best and when you to be your healthiest, if that is possible. That is kind of the main challenge you see."

But there was a small group of Packers' players who welcomed the early bye.

"We've been here since May (beginning) with the rookie minicamp," rookie running back Johnathan Franklin said this week upon returning from the bye. "It's been a long time. The bye week came at a good time for us. The vets are a little upset about it, but we were excited."

For the rookies, the football season really never ended last year. Most went right from their college seasons into preparation for the draft. Many played in all-star games, went to the scouting combine and worked out in front of scouts on their college campus.

And when the Packers' offseason program ended with the final OTA practice in mid-June, the rookies remained in Green Bay for extra workouts before heading to the NFL-mandated rookie symposium later that month.