Rodgers had just thrown a quick out route toward the right sideline during Monday’s organized team activities. Rookie wide receiver Trevor Davis was on the receiving end -- or was supposed to be, but the ball caromed off his hands.
Exactly what had gone awry on the incompletion wasn’t clear from the sideline. Had the fifth-round draft pick from California run his route at the wrong depth? Had he come out of his break too early? Too late? Not even Davis was sure immediately afterward. But this much was clear: Rodgers believed Davis had done something wrong, and Rodgers' frustrated reaction as Davis headed back toward the huddle was, somehow, a positive?
“You want to do everything perfectly for him. He wants everything done perfectly -- he’s a perfectionist -- and you want to be the exact same way. So having him come to you is actually a good thing, even though you made a mistake,” Davis explained afterward. “Because you know he wants you to do it right. That helps a lot.”
Davis actually made a very good first impression on Rodgers after the draft -- when the receiver managed to overcome his nervousness about meeting the two-time NFL MVP and fellow Cal alum. Rodgers liked Davis immediately for his speed (4.37-second 40-yard dash), smooth athleticism and his eager-to-learn, eager-to-please personality.
But, Rodgers said, that was exactly why he reacted the way he did after the botched pass.
“You’ve got to test [them] out a little bit. You’ve got to see how they respond to the way you talk to them and you lead them and you get on them,” Rodgers said. “Like I would tell him, I’m only going to get on somebody I care about and I think could be a player. I’m not going to waste my time unless I believe in a guy.”
Rodgers has long believed that the key to leadership is figuring out which players need which type of motivation. Some react well to being chewed out; others need their confidence buoyed; still others are driven by a fear of disappointing their quarterback or their coaches.
“Definitely I understand that he throws me the ball to see if he can trust me, and I want him to be able to trust me,” Davis said. “I want him to know that if he throws me the ball, I’m going to catch it.”
As third-year wide receiver Jeff Janis continues to try to earn Rodgers’ trust, Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said he and Rodgers have spoken several times this offseason about Rodgers “working more closely with [the young receivers] on a one-on-one basis, more of a big brother/coach type.”
It’s also important to note that the Packers only have one OTA practice per week open to the media and public, so good plays by young receivers that earn Rodgers’ praise can go unseen if they happen during a closed practice.
Rodgers himself mentioned plays made by Janis, Davis, undrafted rookie receiver Geronimo Allison and former practice-squadders Jamel Johnson and Ed Williams throughout OTAs. Those plays, Rodgers said, are vital because the limitations on offseason work can be difficult on youngsters who have so much to learn.
“Those are all confidence plays, and we need them. Those are important plays for those guys to get and make and feel better about,” Rodgers said. “It’s a different with the CBA the way it is; it’s a different offseason atmosphere. There’s not as much time to work with those guys, [so] there’s kind of an increase in the urgency level, and we’ve got to get those guys up and going quickly. The way that we do things around here -- we draft and develop, we don’t bring in hardly any free agents. So we’ve got to get these guys up to speed and playing well quickly.
“I believe in those young guys. I want them to come along.”