He just knows it would have added some angst.
“I would say probably so,” Wicks admitted after this week’s first open OTA practice.
Christian Watson sure felt it when he arrived last year as a rookie.
“It was kind of like, it’s weird just casually seeing him in here, but it’s obviously definitely something I’ve got to get used to,” Watson said last June after his first minicamp practice with Rodgers. “I mean, it’s still crazy to be in here and playing with him.”
Romeo Doubs felt the same way when he was a rookie last year, saying: “I mean, I grew up watching him play with receivers like Donald Driver, and the list goes on. So again, it’s very shocking for me.”
Same thing for Samori Toure, the third member of last year’s rookie receiver trio, who said after that first practice with Rodgers: “Sometimes I find myself looking over at practice and seeing him throw a ball and thinking, ‘Man, that’s A-Rod.’”
While Doubs and Watson had productive stretches as rookies, thanks in large part to Rodgers, practicing without the future Hall of Famer is one less thing for Wicks, fellow rookie receivers Jayden Reed and Grant DuBose, and rookie tight ends Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft to stress about.
And it could be easier for them to assimilate into the Packers' offense with Jordan Love as the starter. Not that they shouldn't strive to be perfect in their every move, but they won’t have a four-time MVP with a reputation for being hard on rookie receivers watching their every move.
“Having Jordan Love, him being young, I’m able to relate to him more and able to just have the same vibe and talk to him,” said Wicks, a fifth-round pick from Virginia. “We sat at a table and talked, ate, things like that. It’s just building that bond with him, being that we’re so young. We’re going to be growing together.”
Second-rounder Reed said he already felt “very comfortable” with Love and added, “I can go up to him, and he’ll come up to me sometimes. I think it’s mutual at this point.”
To be sure, no one is saying Love will be better than Rodgers from the get-go. But the transition from college to the NFL could be easier for the younger players.
“It makes a lot of sense,” Doubs said this week. “I wouldn’t just say [being comfortable] with Jordan, but I would also say for a lot of guys in the offense who have questions to make sure they understand everything. I think that plays a huge role. I’m excited for what this year has for us.”
The first view of the new-look Packers offense came Tuesday, when the team opened an OTA practice to the media. Late in the session, there was the kind of sequence that might have driven Rodgers mad:
First, Musgrave let linebacker De’Vondre Campbell undercut a route, and he nearly picked it off.
Next, Doubs slipped, and when he got his feet back under him, he dropped the ball.
Finally, Toure ran an out route, but the ball was well out of reach.
Love didn’t scowl at Musgrave. He didn’t bark at Doubs. And he didn’t throw his hands up in frustration after the ball sailed over Toure’s head.
Maybe if this had happened in an August training camp practice, Love’s reaction would have been different. Perhaps he would have even ripped into the group like Rodgers did last summer with his young receivers.
“That’s not kind of how I’ve been in the past,” Love said. “But I think there’s a lot of great things [to learn from Rodgers]. Like you just see how much he’s demanding of people and, like, the urgency he expects things to be on because we’ve got to build this thing fast. When young guys come in, we’ve got to have that urgency to be on the same page.”
Still, Love has a presence about him, according to those in the meeting rooms.
“I haven’t seen anybody that made me feel the way Rome [Doubs] did towards Aaron right away, but I’m not saying they don’t think, ‘Hey, this is our NFL starting quarterback who demands a lot and commands a lot,’” Packers receivers coach/passing game coordinator Jason Vrable said.
“When he’s talking, there’s usually a difference in Jordan talking and somebody else. They usually perk up and take notes on it. If Jordan says a note in the meeting of what he wants it to look like, everybody turns around is like, ‘All right, got it.’ So I think Jordan commands that and knows what he wants in our system. I think probably it might be easier, but that would probably be a question for them.”
Doubs said in January, during an appearance on the "Maggie & Perloff" podcast, that he never hung out with Rodgers away from the team facility. He said it matter-of-factly, but it rankled some. It even prompted a response from Rodgers on "The Pat McAfee Show," with Rodgers saying, among other things, that “There’s two types of leaders: There’s leaders that want to be liked first and foremost, and respected second. And there’s leaders that want to be respected first and foremost, and liked second.”
Rodgers’ leadership style evolved over the course of his career, and Love’s will too. But for now, Love, 24, is at least of the same generation as most of the Packers’ current skill position players.
“I think it’s also easier from a younger guy,” Love said. “I think they can relate a little bit better to me, but I try and be open with all these guys -- talk to them and just let them know if there’s anything they need, ask me. I’m an open book. I try to let everybody know I’m an open book. Come ask me, come talk to me. I’m trying to build that chemistry with all of them.”