Aaron Rodgers: No correlation between preseason snaps, regular-season start

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Don't tell Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers or coach Mike McCarthy that preseason playing time has anything to do with how a team starts in the regular season.

"I don't think there's any correlation with that, no," Rodgers said Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, his coach was only slightly less committal when asked about that correlation.

"It's debatable," McCarthy said.

Clearly, it's not a theory the Packers have bought into. Rodgers isn't expected to play in Thursday's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field, and there's little indication he will play much more than he has since the Packers curtailed his summer snaps beginning in 2013.

The summer of 2012 was the last time Rodgers played in all four preseason games. That year, he took 79 snaps in 14 series.

Here's what Rodgers has done since:

  • 2013: Three games, five series, 45 snaps

  • 2014: Two games, eight series, 69 snaps

  • 2015: Two games, five series, 45 snaps

  • 2016: One game, two series, 26 snaps

Rodgers started slow last season; that isn't up for debate. The Packers were 4-6 before he said he thought they could "run the table," and they almost did thanks to a remarkable turnaround in Rodgers' play. But pinning the slow start on the lack of preseason work might be a stretch given that it was only slightly less than his workload in 2014, the second of his two MVP seasons.

Still, Rodgers himself pointed to a faster start as something necessary to avoid having to play the NFC Championship Game on the road -- should the Packers get that far -- like they did last season in Atlanta. It was after that blowout loss when Rodgers said: "You have to win those games in the regular season to give yourself an opportunity to host this game. Because it's just so difficult to win on the road in this environment against a hot team. So that needs to be the focus moving forward next year."

Rodgers didn't know at the time that the schedule-makers would put two of Green Bay's toughest games in Weeks 1 and 2 -- against Seattle at home and at Atlanta.

"We've got a tough start, we've got a couple really good opponents to start the season," Rodgers said. "But it's really about identity and finding what the identity is on offense. The balance of run-pass that we're going to have and the personnel groupings. We just didn't find that until later in the season last year, when we finally went with Ty [Montgomery] at running back.

"We have to figure out what those personnel groups are from the start. And you know we've been working on some things; we'll start to work on some more stuff as a No. 1 group as the weeks progress, as we get more playing time in the preseason. But to me it's all about the identity. I don't think it's about reps -- it's just finding how we're going to start the season and what kind of team we want to be on offense."

Even if Rodgers' workload in the preseason games won't change, he has taken plenty of snaps in practice. In fact, he called Tuesday's practice one of his toughest of the year from a workload standpoint.

Rodgers has looked sharp throughout camp. He made one of his best throws of the summer during Tuesday's practice, when he lofted a fade to rookie receiver Michael Clark, who made a leaping grab over rookie cornerback Kevin King for a touchdown.

"Practice ultimately is where all that work gets done, on the field but not in a game situation," Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. "A lot of that is dictated by how we're doing offensively. I think if we struggled offensively in camp maybe they'd play more in the preseason.

"But I think Coach has a great feel of where we are within our scheme and how our guys are performing in the system. I think a lot of that dictates how much the guys have to play or not play in the preseason. For Aaron, in his case, going into Year 13, we go through this every year. Aaron is going to get himself ready to play in the opener regardless of how much he plays in the preseason. He'll be ready."