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Green Bay Packers biggest underdogs in Aaron Rodgers’ career


Aaron Rodgers has overcome a lot of obstacles in his career, and still plays with a chip on his shoulder from falling to No. 24 in the 2005 NFL draft.

He’ll have some more motivation next Sunday at the Los Angeles Rams, courtesy of Las Vegas oddmakers.

The SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas opened the Green Bay Packers as 8.5-point underdogs in Week 8.

If the line stands, it would represent the largest total by which Rodgers has been an underdog in his career, per ESPN Stats & Information data, and biggest since the Packers were 8-point underdogs to the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. Green Bay was an underdog to the Arizona Cardinals by 7 in 2015, to the New York Jets by 6 in 2010 and to the Atlanta Falcons by 5.5 in 2016. All but the Jets game came in the playoffs.



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Aaron Hernandez told Bill Belichick, New England Patriots he feared for family’s safety in 2013 trade request


Aaron Hernandez was worried about the safety of his fiancee and daughter when he came to Bill Belichick in February 2013 seeking a trade, the New England Patriots coach told authorities, according to documents obtained by The Boston Globe.

Belichick told Massachusetts State Police and a North Attleborough police captain that Hernandez expressed concern that “people might potentially harm” Shayanna Jenkins and their daughter.



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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hopes to avoid knee brace


GREEN BAY, Wis. — There’s good news and potentially bad news for Aaron Rodgers.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback could have his top three receivers back together for Monday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, but he might be a little less mobile than he’d like.

Rodgers experienced what he called a setback with his ailing left knee during last Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, when he took a hit from linebacker Christian Jones on the game’s opening drive.

For the first time since he was injured in the season opener, Rodgers wore a smaller, lighter brace against the Lions. Now there’s a chance he may have to go back to the larger brace that he wore in the three games immediate following the injury.

“I hope not,” Rodgers said. “The goal would be to wear the same brace I wore last week, but I have a lot of faith in our training staff and we’re going to [use] the brace we feel is most safe and allowing me to do exactly what I’m able to do on Monday.”

Rodgers did not practice on Thursday, the Packers’ first of the week in advance of the 49ers game. That followed the same pattern as the last month. He said he hoped to practice on Friday; the past two weeks, he has taken part in that full-pads workout (which is normally on Thursday in advance of a Sunday game).

He did, however, call what happened against the Lions a setback. He threw for 442 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions but was done in by two first-half fumbles on strip sacks, marking only the third time in his career that he lost two fumbles in a game.

“Yeah, kind of a setback last week, the beginning of the week,” Rodgers said. “Got to be in the rehab group again today, got a lot of good work in with [assistant trainer] Nate [Weir] and just hoping I get back out there tomorrow and have a feel-good Friday and a practice [Sunday] and be good to go — hopefully back to where I was in Detroit.”

While Rodgers worked with the trainers, receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison were surprise participants at practice on Thursday after missing the Detroit game. Both had hamstring injuries; Allison also was diagnosed with a concussion. Coach Mike McCarthy said before Thursday’s practice that Allison had cleared the concussion protocol, but indications were both receivers would be in the rehab group.

Instead, they went through at least part of practice, meaning the trio of Cobb, Allison and No. 1 receiver Davante Adams are on the verge of a reunion. The trio hasn’t played together since Week 3 because Cobb missed the previous two games.

Against the Lions, it was Adams and three rookie receivers. Two of them, Marquez Valdes-Scantling (seven catches for 68 yards) and Equanimeous St. Brown (three for 89) made contributions, but Adams (nine for 140 and a touchdown) did the majority of the work.

“I think we can be one of the best in the league,” Adams said of the trio of himself, Cobb and Allison. “I honestly think that because obviously you know how I feel about myself and my game. Randall’s been doing this thing for a long time, longer than I have. I have the utmost respect for him, and G-Mo goes about his business as good as anybody else in the league. So the sky’s the limit for him. I feel like he has not even come close to reaching his potential. He’s shown flashes, but he can do a lot for us.”

Perhaps that will help the Packers get off to a faster start, something Rodgers has identified as a goal. Although they’re 10th in the NFL in total offense, they are tied for 18th in scoring and tied for 19th in red-zone touchdown percentage. They have been outscored 42-13 in first quarters this season and 76-43 in first halves, while averaging just 23 points per game.

“It’s definitely below, and we’ve kind of been stuck at that number,” Rodgers said. “Scored that a couple of times — 22, 24, way up to 29 in Week 2. Not quite the standard that we’ve set here over the years with the type of offense we think we can have and the type of offense we think we could have coming out of training camp.

“I told you guys Week 1 it’s going to be a work in progress; I don’t think we’re far off. I feel kind of like after Washington a couple of years ago [2016, Week 11]. We are very close to getting things going and like I said then and I’ll say again now, I feel like if we can get off to a better start on offense, it makes the entire squad play with a different type of confidence.

“We need to lead from the front as an offense and as a team and give our defense an opportunity to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback and make them a little more one-dimensional.”

A full complement of receivers and the smaller knee brace could help.



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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to be limited participant in practice


GREEN BAY, Wis. — There’s progress with Aaron Rodgers‘ left knee.

For the first time since the Packers quarterback injured his knee in Week 1, he will practice before the team’s weekly Saturday session.

Coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers will be limited in Thursday’s practice, which is typically the team’s longest workout of the week. The Packers don’t practice on Fridays but instead hold a short on-field session about 24 hours before game time.

“Any time your quarterback [doesn’t practice] — I don’t care what team you’re on or wherever I’ve been, when your quarterback doesn’t practice — it’s different,” McCarthy said this week. “I mean, Aaron Rodgers brings a tremendous amount of — forget about the game plan or the scheme you’re running that week. The competitive nature. When you talk to defensive coaches, and I had one recently with one of the newer guys on our staff about other places and different [things]. When you feel a quarterback on the field, that’s huge as far as his cadence, his presence, the competition. That’s such a big part. Those are things that don’t show up in a scouting report or that you can see on video.

“So I think clearly any football team that doesn’t have their starting quarterback, especially the greatness of Aaron, it’s definitely different in practice. And obviously if we didn’t think it was important we wouldn’t practice. But it’s part of your preparation.”

Rodgers indicated Wednesday that his lack of practice time didn’t affect his performance in Sunday’s 31-17 loss at Washington, but whatever work he gets in on Thursday will mean his most prep time since the season opener, which is the Packers (1-1-1) only win of the season.

Rodgers has played every snap in the two games since his injury but missed a total of five practices, including Wednesday’s session — the first in advance of Sunday’s game against the Bills at Lambeau Field.

“Practice?” Rodgers said Wednesday, channeling his inner Allen Iverson. “What do you want to talk about? It’s practice. I do love to compete. There’s no doubt about it. It is difficult and different for me to not be out there. I’m one who always loves being out there because you’re not just competing but you’re working on things with the guys and working on the game plan especially on days like Wednesday and Thursday. So that’s been obviously a struggle for me. But I’ve been putting a lot of good work in with Nate and our training staff. That’s how I’m able to play. That’s the tradeoff — not being out there for practice but the tradeoff is I can actually get out there and play on Sunday.

“It’s three weeks now, 2½ games of dealing with this, so I feel good about my movement. I’m getting better. And hopefully at some point I’ll be able to practice again before Saturday. But other than that, just getting ready to play.”

McCarthy also said tight end Jimmy Graham, who did not practice on Wednesday, will return in a limited fashion. McCarthy said Graham (knee) was held out because of “maintenance” and did not have an injury of concern. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who left Sunday’s loss with a back injury, also is in the limited practice category. However, right guard Justin McCray (shoulder) is not expected to play this week. Veteran Byron Bell is expected to start in his place.



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Fantasy fallout: Can Josh Gordon, Aaron Jones become game-changers? – NFL Nation


Two weeks into last season, New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara had just eight carries for 21 yards, seven catches for 71 yards and zero touchdowns before he went bonkers and won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.

It’s impossible to predict that level of eruption for anybody who has been lying dormant through the first two weeks of 2018. But if your fantasy team is 0-2 and you feel like you need to swing for the fences, Josh Gordon and Aaron Jones are a couple of intriguing high-ceiling options.

Gordon’s upside is obvious, since he led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013 and has now teamed up with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. But the downside is pretty glaring, as well, since he has missed more than 50 games since then because of suspensions and addiction issues, and the Cleveland Browns finally decided to give up on him this week.

As ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss wrote, Gordon “could turn out to be a big steal, or he might quickly fall off as the non-factor that he has mostly been over the past four seasons.”

Although you may have visions of Randy Moss’ 2007 debut with the Patriots dancing in your head (98 catches, 1,493 yards, 23 touchdown catches), Reiss also mentioned some of the low-risk fliers who haven’t worked out as well for New England over the years (such as Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth and Michael Floyd).

And since the Patriots only paid a “drop in the bucket” to acquire Gordon, Reiss stressed that “history has shown they won’t be hesitant to move on quickly if he can’t be a reliable teammate or fit into the team’s hard-driving culture.”

With all of that being said, Gordon still has immense talent. And he has a great opportunity to revive his career with a legendary team that happens to need a big-play receiver.

Reiss said he expects a limited package for Gordon initially — assuming Gordon’s hamstring injury doesn’t keep him inactive this week. But, Reiss said, “if everything clicks — and that’s a big ‘if’ — he should be in the top three receivers, and they run plenty of three-receiver sets.”

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Matthew Berry explains the thought process behind not ranking Aaron Jones for Week 3.

Likewise, ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter Rob Demovsky doesn’t expect an immediate breakout performance from Jones, who returned from a two-game suspension this week. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Jones will have a “secondary role” behind Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery.

However, Demovsky said, “I’ve thought all along that at some point this season Jones would be their lead back” — especially if injuries creep up at some point for Williams or Montgomery.

“There’s little doubt that Jones is the most dynamic of the Packers’ top three running backs,” wrote Demovsky, who pointed out that in games when Jones has touched the ball since the start of last season, Green Bay has averaged 125.9 rushing yards — compared to 79.0 without him.

As a rookie last season, Jones had four games with a carry of at least 20 yards. And his 5.5-yard rushing average ranked No. 2 among all NFL backs with at least 75 carries (behind only Kamara).

New RB1s in San Francisco, Denver?

Just as everyone predicted, the NFL’s rushing leader through two weeks is Matt Breida. Even more unlikely — the San Francisco 49ers‘ second-year running back isn’t even leading his own team in carries or snaps. Breida has run for 184 yards on just 22 carries, while Alfred Morris has 86 yards on 26 carries.

Obviously Breida has been extremely efficient with those touches. As ESPN 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner pointed out, even if you take away Breida’s 66-yard touchdown run from last week, he is still averaging 5.6 yards on the rest of his carries. So, yes, the undrafted 5-foot-11, 190-pounder should get more opportunities to be San Francisco’s leading man as the season goes.

But Wagoner said 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan trusts the veteran Morris and will keep him involved — especially in situations like the four-minute offense where they want to churn out tough yards.

“I don’t think Breida will get 20 carries a game, but I think it will start edging more toward like 15-17 for Breida and 8-10 for Morris,” Wagoner predicted.

Meanwhile, ESPN Denver Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold described a similar situation in the Broncos’ backfield, where undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay has been the surprise breakout of 2018 so far. The dynamic 5-8, 190-pounder became the first undrafted player in NFL history with more than 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first two games (a total of 29 carries for 78 yards, plus three catches for 35 yards and a touchdown).

Legwold said he still expects the bigger, more physical rookie Royce Freeman to get work — and he also mentioned the four-minute offense as an example of when Freeman would be more involved, as well as heavy goal-line packages. So far, Freeman has 23 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown, with no catches.

Legwold pointed out that third running back Devontae Booker actually got more snaps than Freeman last week (22-16), but he said he doesn’t expect that to happen often.

“They love Lindsay’s production for sure, but I think they still feel like for him to have consistent impact throughout the season, they’ll have to manage his touches. He is a rookie and he isn’t built like a traditional lug-the-rock guy,” said Legwold, who also pointed out Lindsay plays a key role on special teams, which the Broncos have made a priority.

Quick hits

Philadelphia Eagles: Quarterback Carson Wentz is back from last year’s torn ACL. And as ESPN Eagles reporter Tim McManus wrote, he is setting the bar high for his 2018 debut.

“I feel extremely confident moving around, on the run,” Wentz said. And coach Doug Pederson insisted he’s not going to “coach scared.”

McManus also wrote an in-depth piece on how Wentz got through his comeback with help from his mental coach, his new wife and others.

Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore has made it a big priority to get Alex Collins and the run game off the ground, as ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley wrote. Collins has just 48 yards on 16 carries, and Baltimore ranks 30th in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry.

Collins lost a fumble in Week 1, but that doesn’t appear to have affected his workload. The bigger issue, Hensley said, is the unique way that the first two games played out. The Ravens took a huge lead against the Bills in Week 1 and rested Collins for most of the second half, then they fell behind early against the Bengals in Week 2 and abandoned the run.

“I mean, yeah come on, we want to get the ball in Alex’s hands,” Flacco said. “He’s a playmaker, man. He’s dynamic.”

Carolina Panthers: As ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton wrote, Christian McCaffrey is on pace to obliterate the NFL record for receptions in a season by a running back (102 by Matt Forte in 2014). McCaffrey has 20 already, including a franchise-record-tying 14 this past week.

“When I look at him coming out of the backfield I think of LaDainian Tomlinson. He just creates so many mismatches,” said veteran Panthers safety Mike Adams — a comparison that’s not too crazy, considering that former Chargers coach Norv Turner is Carolina’s new offensive coordinator.

Miami Dolphins: Albert Wilson has been a fun addition as a “do-everything” receiver/running back/wildcat quarterback. As ESPN Dolphins reporter Cameron Wolfe wrote, some wondered where Wilson would fit when he signed a three-year, $24 million deal in March. But coach Adam Gase had a plan for him, “and we are starting to see it.”

Unfortunately, the Dolphins’ receiving corps is too crowded to consider Wilson a reliable fantasy play — especially with DeVante Parker poised to return from a broken finger this week. Wolfe said Kenny Stills remains the safest fantasy bet. But he added Parker should be worth a roster spot in 12- or 14-team leagues because he is Miami’s biggest receiver and should eventually return to getting a steady share of the snaps.

Cincinnati Bengals: Running back Joe Mixon is expected to miss two to four weeks after having surgery to repair what he called a “slight tear” in his meniscus. As ESPN Bengals reporter Katherine Terrell wrote, Mixon said he feels great already and will return as soon as he feels comfortable enough to “run full speed and cut on a dime.”

Los Angeles Chargers: Remember when RB Melvin Gordon scored zero touchdowns as a rookie? Now he has a knack for finding the end zone, as ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams wrote. QB Philip Rivers said on one of Gordon’s three touchdowns last week, he was getting ready to throw to receiver Tyrell Williams before spotting Gordon “mid-delivery.”

Seattle Seahawks: As ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson wrote, rookie tight end Will Dissly‘s breakout start (147 yards and two touchdowns) is even more surprising when you consider Seattle liked him because he was the draft’s best blocking tight end. Coach Pete Carroll told ESPN 710 Radio in Seattle that he found himself hollering, “It’s Mike Ditka!” during Dissly’s 66-yard score in Week 1.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Some interesting fantasy notes included in the latest update on Le’Veon Bell‘s contract holdout from ESPN Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler: Drafters who took Bell No. 1 overall in ESPN leagues have a winning percentage of 43.5, compared to 65.2 for those who drafted Todd Gurley first.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Keelan Cole has emerged as Jacksonville’s No. 1 receiver even faster than expected with 10 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown, according to ESPN Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco, who said it’s clear that QB Blake Bortles trusts him. DiRocco also explored why Bortles has been statistically better in games without standout RB Leonard Fournette.

Detroit Lions: Detroit’s pass-run ratio has been historically lopsided, according to ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein. If they can get that corrected, Rothstein thinks rookie RB Kerryon Johnson is a good buy-low candidate. “At some point, he should take over,” Rothstein said of Detroit’s time share.

Houston Texans: Receiver Will Fuller had a big game in his 2018 debut (eight catches, 113 yards and a TD). As ESPN Texans reporter Sarah Barshop wrote, his presence also helped Houston spread the ball around and take attention away from fellow receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had six catches for 110 yards and a TD.

Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott seemed to find another gear in Week 3 in each of his first two seasons. ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer said the team is hoping that trend will continue.

Green Bay Packers: Demovsky also wrote this week about the emergence of young receiver Geronimo Allison in Green Bay. You can also find regular updates on QB Aaron Rodgers‘ health on the Packers’ team page.

Kansas City Chiefs/49ers: Last but not least, some fun stories on two of the NFL’s fastest men, who will take the same field this week — Kansas City’s “Cheetah” receiver Tyreek Hill and 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin. According to Wagoner, when Goodwin was asked how his speed stacks up to Hill’s, he said he doesn’t compare himself to anybody — then he rolled up his sleeve to reveal the forearm tattoo commemorating his appearance in the 2012 Olympics.

Meanwhile, ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher wrote about how Hill wants to become known as more than just the NFL’s fastest receiver.



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Aaron Rodgers means more to the spread than any other starting QB


A hobbled Aaron Rodgers is more valuable to the point spread than a healthy Tom Brady or any other NFL quarterback. That’s the viewpoint of oddsmakers, who define their opinions by their risk of losing millions, rather than clamoring for hot takes in the GOAT conversation.

“New England has always overachieved with a backup quarterback,” said Ed Salmons, an oddsmaker at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. “Green Bay is in a class [by itself] because they’re obsessed with getting horrendous second-string quarterbacks.”

Therein lies the root of this discussion. The drop-off from starter to backup plays a definitive role in this conversation as well.

“It’s hard to get a worse backup quarterback than [Deshone] Kizer because he just can’t play without making mistakes. If the backup were Colt McCoy, then Rodgers wouldn’t be worth as much,” Salmons said.

While Rodgers is still valuable on one leg, other injuries require caution. “Carson Wentz is going to be a guy with a huge knee brace on that’s not going to be able to run the way he did last year,” Salmons said. “It’s hard to give a Wentz number right now because the current version is going to be a lot different than the version of next year when he’s 100 percent healthy.”

After Baker Mayfield led Cleveland to a 21-17 win on Thursday night, Salmons updated his numbers on the Browns QB situation. “The Browns were getting much worse with Tyrod Taylor, who was a competent QB in his career,” Salmons said. “The current version of Taylor is top three bad. Obviously with Mayfield they are a much better team. That’s worth three points to me.”

Formulating a player’s exact worth is much more complicated than simple math. The nuanced process hinges on the original game line, because NFL oddsmaking relies so heavily on the key numbers of three, four and seven — the most common margins of victory.

ESPN asked Salmons to assess a point spread for every team playing on the road against the Rams, which are his highest-powered team. Then, he determined a point spread with the team’s backup QB in the exact same situation. Below are the tiers of line changes, given the backups. As for the Rams, they would hypothetically play at New England, which is the closest team in Salmons’ power rankings.



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Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers concerned about knee


GREEN BAY, Wis. – The hope, of course, is that Aaron Rodgers‘ injured left knee improves as the season goes along.

The concern, however, is that the more the Green Bay Packers quarterback plays on it, the worse it gets.

“Yeah, obviously that’s a concern,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “Hopefully it goes the other way though.”

Rodgers made it through all of Sunday’s 29-29 tie against the Minnesota Vikings while playing with a large brace on his left knee, which he injured in the previous week’s season-opening win over the Chicago Bears.

He admitted that his knee “obviously it won’t be 100 percent, so I’ll just adjust accordingly to how I’m feeling and try to get through.”

“It just depends on how the week goes with the rehab and the recovery,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, I’d love to be better than I was last week as far as health-wise but there’s some factors that are out of my control.”

That likely means another week without much time on the practice field. Rodgers did not practice last week until Saturday, when he took part in the hour-long session that coach Mike McCarthy typically holds the day before games.

McCarthy altered his usual practice schedule in advance of Sunday’s game at Washington. He cancelled Wednesday’s practice, although not necessarily because of Rodgers’ injury. The Packers’ overtime game against the Vikings was played in 80-degree heat with 71 percent humidity. That followed a Sunday night season opener against the Bears.

“I think it’s obvious we came off of a Sunday Night game, played an overtime game in unusual heat for this part of the country, so just trusting our numbers,” McCarthy said. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Rodgers said the warm weather on Sunday actually helped his knee get loose as the game went on.

“The heat and the adrenaline definitely helped, but it’s just going to be something you’ve got to deal with for a while,” Rodgers said. “Take it week by week. It doesn’t seem like there’s a major setback at this point, so just being smart about it and trying to get ready to play Sunday.”

Rodgers completed 30-of-42 passes with one touchdown and no interceptions, while often favoring throws from within the pocket.

He ran three times for 8 yards (with a long run of 7 for a first down). One of them was a read-option keeper in overtime when he fumbled. He completed 30-of-42 passes with one touchdown and no interceptions. However, the Packers converted just one of five red zone trips into touchdowns.

“We’re still in a day by day mode, I mean, just how he’s progressing,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “So we’ll see how the team responds out of this format that we’re in today. They’ll be, there’s a number of players obviously, there’s players that have played a lot of reps the first two weeks. So, what we want to get done with them and how we practice them tomorrow will be based off the information that we go through tonight as a staff. So, he’s obviously in that group from an injury standpoint.”

The other major injury of concern is to cornerback Kevin King, who dropped out against the Vikings because of a groin injury. Although McCarthy did not think it was a long-term issue, he said King would be “hard pressed” to play Sunday at Washington.



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Forever linked: Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers and the 2005 draft – Washington Redskins Blog


ASHBURN, Va. — They traveled different roads, yet forever will be linked. The San Francisco 49ers once upon a time opted for Alex Smith instead of Aaron Rodgers with the first overall pick, a move that looks far different with 14 years of hindsight.

Smith embarked on a journey in which he played immediately, got benched, got hurt, got traded — twice — and yet still remained a starter. Meanwhile, Rodgers sat for three seasons behind Brett Favre, became the starter, won a Super Bowl, recently signed a four-year, $134 million contract and remains in the discussion as the best quarterback in the game.

“At the time there was no comparison because he wasn’t playing, but once he started rolling … he and I will always be paired together,” Smith said. “Doesn’t help that we look alike.”

Their careers also are a case study in how to train a young quarterback. Smith was 20 years old when drafted in 2005 and started 30 games before he was 23; Rodgers, who is five months older than Smith, didn’t start until 2008, when he was 25. This year’s touted rookie quarterbacks are on different sides of that case study, with two starting (Sam Darnold and Josh Allen) while three others sit (Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson).

Smith and Rodgers will start against one another for the fourth time Sunday when the Redskins host the Green Bay Packers. Smith started twice vs. Green Bay while with San Francisco and once with Kansas City. Rodgers and the Packers have won two of the three meetings.

But it’s not as if Smith feels like there’s anything to worry about in living up to being drafted ahead of Rodgers.

“That’s 14 years down the line,” he said.

Rodgers was a focal point of the 2005 draft because he was considered a possible top overall pick and spent the day sliding down the draft board. Going into that draft, his thought process was that he was destined to go to San Francisco.

“I just thought it was the perfect situation,” Rodgers told ESPN’s Rob Demovsky last year. “California kid who had been a lifelong Niner fan. I thought at the time I was the most NFL-ready quarterback coming out of college because I played in a pro-style system.”

But the 49ers liked Smith’s size (6-foot-4) and athleticism.

“Obviously that was a mistake because [Rodgers is] a Hall of Fame quarterback,” Mike Nolan, the 49ers coach at the time, said this summer. “What we saw with Alex, we thought over time he would get better because he was so young, which he has done. That’s what we were banking on. What we missed on is that they [the Niners] didn’t give us enough time to stay around. Had we used his skill set like we should have, then we would have bought ourselves time.

“He was out there with not a great surrounding cast. We were trying to build something from absolutely nothing and that made it doubly hard on Alex.”

But Nolan said one aspect stood out about Rodgers.

“I loved the arrogance and confidence he had,” Nolan said. “You talk to [ex-players] like John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino. All of them have some cockiness to them. Even Drew Brees, who is as respectful a man as there is, he has tremendous confidence.”

The struggles dented Smith’s confidence. The 49ers weren’t good and he had to try to rescue the franchise. Injuries had an impact in three of his first four seasons, and he missed all of 2008 with a broken bone in his shoulder. Smith played for three full-time head coaches and seven offensive coordinators in his first seven seasons. Meanwhile, Rodgers has played for two head coaches in Green Bay.

“I don’t know if there were many pros for me playing early,” Smith said. “I feel like I dug myself a pretty deep hole that rookie year.”

Smith said in the offseason he dealt with some anxiety early in his career, born out of dealing with his situation.

“He was 20 when we drafted him,” Nolan said. “That might have been part of the anxiety. But had we done a better job of utilizing his skill set, he would have had less anxiety because he would have been more comfortable.”

Smith was drafted by a team seeking a culture change; Rodgers went to one with a system already in place. Last year, the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes, sat him behind Smith for a year and gave him the job this season. Mahomes leads the NFL with 10 touchdown passes in the first two weeks.

Smith likes the way that teams are embracing the individuality in quarterbacks these days.

“I came in as a spread guy. I had to play most of that year under center,” he said. “I do think now there’s an appreciation for letting some of these guys do what they did well in college. It’s fun to watch young guys come in and use their skill set.”

But there’s no benefit to a what-if game.

“I don’t give that much thought,” he said. “What’s the point? It does me no good dwelling on that. I’m very thankful for where I’m at right now and the road I did have to go down. Certainly, there were tough times, but no, you can’t go back and change it. So, why dwell on it?”



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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers practices; status still iffy


GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers practiced Saturday for the first time since he sprained his left knee in the season opener, increasing the Green Bay Packers‘ chances of having their starting quarterback on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

It’s a significant step, but it doesn’t guarantee Rodgers’ return.

That decision won’t be made until the team is sure that Rodgers came through the one-hour session without any setbacks. That likely means waiting to see how Rodgers’ knee feels Sunday morning.

Rodgers, who was listed as questionable on Friday, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday — the team’s two longest on-field sessions of the week. Unlike most teams, the Packers don’t practice on Fridays but instead hold a light on-field session on Saturdays before a Sunday game.

Coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that he would have no problem playing Rodgers even if he did not practice at all this week.

“Don’t really need to see anything [from Rodgers on Saturday] because the classroom work and participation from both Aaron and DeShone [Kizer] is all part of this preparation process,” McCarthy said. “So we’re just going to keep working through that, and we’ll be ready to go.

“He could play with no reps,” McCarthy added. “We’ve established that point some time ago in his career. So I think it’s no different. You’d like to walk off the field Saturday and have your plan set, but this is the National Football League, things happen. Guys get sick on Saturday, too. That’s all part of our process where we work the practice squad guys in and everything. So we’ll be ready for anything, but I know he wants to play. So we’ll see how it goes.”

Rodgers left Sunday night’s opener against the Bears in the second quarter after defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris fell on the quarterback’s left leg. Rodgers said it was fair to call the injury a sprain, but he wouldn’t say what exactly was sprained.

It’s most likely that he sprained one of ligaments other than the ACL. An MCL, LCL or PCL sprain could heal without surgery but any damage to the ACL would not. He said he has had three previous surgeries on his left knee — in high school (arthroscopic surgery), college (ACL reconstruction) and after the 2015 NFL season (arthroscopic).

Rodgers said he did not take any painkilling injections or medication before he returned last Sunday against the Bears and threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to rally the Packers from a 20-3 deficit to a 24-23 win.



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Aaron Rodgers can’t walk on water but can play well after injury – Green Bay Packers Blog


GREEN BAY, Wis. — No, Aaron Rodgers can’t walk on water, regardless of what Mike Zimmer says.

But the Green Bay Packers quarterback can play like, well, Aaron Rodgers even in the immediate aftermath of injuries.

Rodgers did not practice on Wednesday and said he would have no trouble playing even if he didn’t practice all week, but he could not commit to playing Sunday against Zimmer’s Vikings a week after he sprained his left knee in the season-opening comeback win over the Bears.

“He walks on water, so I’m sure he’s going to play,” Zimmer said on a conference call with reporters at Lambeau Field.

Perhaps Zimmer is working off history.

Only three times since he became a starter was Rodgers unable to play the week following an injury: both broken collarbones (2013 and last season) and his 2010 concussion (when he missed one game).

Rodgers not only has come back the next week from other injuries, but on most occasions he has turned in masterful performances.

“I have a great treatment regimen with these guys in here and the stuff I do outside the facility and then just being ready mentally,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “Even though I’m not out there practicing today, I’m aware of the game plan and I’m doing what I always do, watching film, taking notes, thinking about adjustments, just getting ready to rock n’ roll and hopefully my body will be ready to go.”

Here’s a look at how Rodgers has come back the week following injuries:

2008

Injury: Separated right shoulder at Tampa Bay, Sept. 28

Next game: vs Atlanta, Oct. 5

It wasn’t until a workout on the morning of the Falcons game that coach Mike McCarthy knew Rodgers would play. And even after Rodgers got the OK, McCarthy assured him that he wouldn’t call any deep throws.

“We were actually just laughing about that game last week where I told him, I wouldn’t throw any deep balls,” McCarthy recalled this week. “We had one deep ball on the call sheet and it was a third-and-1 call, and I said, ‘We’ll wait ’til you get going and you tell me when you’re ready if we can cut it loose.’

“And shoot, I think it was the second series, it was the perfect down and distance, perfect hash, and I called the play — ‘Fake 94 Bob X Read’ — and as soon as I called it, I thought ‘Oh Christ — excuse me — I wasn’t supposed to call that.’ And he went back and let it rip and then everything was fine after that.”

Rodgers threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns and “Fake 94 Bob X Read” became the stuff of legend even though the Packers lost the game 27-24 on the way to a 6-10 record his first season as a starter during which Rodgers did not miss a game.

2014

Injury: Left calf strain at Tampa Bay, Dec. 21

Next game: vs. Detroit, Dec. 28

Rodgers didn’t miss a snap against the Buccaneers, but he reinjured the calf in the first half against the Lions. His calf seized up as he scrambled on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left before halftime. He missed the final possession of the second quarter and the first one of the third quarter, giving way to Matt Flynn. During that time, the Packers’ 14-0 lead evaporated.

“I didn’t know if he could come back from that,” Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga said after that game. “It looked pretty bad, like he got shot how he went down on that touchdown pass.”

Rodgers not only returned, he completed 11 of 13 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown (for a 133.7 passer rating) after the injury. In the fourth quarter, he even scored on a 1-yard run to clinch a 30-20 win that gave the Packers the NFC North Division title and a first-round playoff bye.

Still bothered by the injury, he played a masterful game in the divisional playoff round to beat the Cowboys and send the Packers to the NFC title game.

2016

Injury: Left hamstring pull at Philadelphia, Nov. 28

Next game: vs. Houston, Dec. 4

The injury against the Eagles introduced the world to the now-famous blue tent, where Rodgers hid while receiving treatment. It also was the start of the “run-the-table” winning streak that sent the Packers to the NFC Championship Game after a 4-6 start.

The next game against the Texans proved to be challenging. The combination of wet, snowy field and the fear that it might worsen his injury forced Rodgers into a conservative mode. He completed 20 of 30 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-13 win.

He managed to run three times, including an 11-yard scramble, and both of his touchdowns came from outside the pocket. After the game, Rodgers said his hamstring felt “not better than [it] did coming in, but I feel good where I’m at. Had decent movement and didn’t do anything to create a major setback.”

Injury: Right calf strain vs. Seattle, Dec. 11

Next game: at Chicago, Dec. 18

Rodgers said he hurt his lower right leg against the Seahawks on the third play of the game — a 66-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams on a roll out to his right. He said he believes the calf injury may have been because he had been compensating for the hamstring injury.

In advance of the Bears game, the Packers’ concern over Rodgers’ injuries prompted them to sign rookie Joe Callahan off the practice squad to be the third quarterback behind backup Brett Hundley.

Rodgers was noticeably hobbled but got some big-time assistance from the running game, which totaled a season-high 226 yards. However, Rodgers made a key throw when he needed it most — a 60-yarder to Jordy Nelson that traveled 52 yards past the line of scrimmage for his deepest completion of the season to set up the game-winning field goal at the gun in a 30-27 victory.



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