GREEN BAY, Wis. — Asked about a sloppy showing by the Green Bay Packers offense the night before, Aaron Rodgers channeled his inner Allen Iverson.
“Practice?” Rodgers said Tuesday in a deadpanned tribute to the NBA star’s oft-imitated rant. “We’re talking about practice? Not talking about the game, talking about practice, right?”
Rodgers acknowledged that the offense made too many mistakes Monday night, but didn’t see any sense in dwelling on it.
And the quarterback firmly dismissed the notion that the reigning Super Bowl champions made a mistake by not getting together for informal practice sessions during the lockout, offering only a one-word answer: “No.”
Rodgers will be talking about a game — well, sort of — instead of practice soon enough as the Packers open preseason play at Cleveland on Saturday after visiting the White House on Friday.
“I’m not sure how much we’re going to play,” Rodgers said. “Usually it’s not a whole lot. Just get that timing back, maybe take a couple hits. Maybe one. And just get back into the swing of things.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy had harsh words for his team Monday night, saying they were “not close to where we need to be as a football team” after a practice filled with mental mistakes, penalties, and fumbles by running backs James Starks and Ryan Grant.
McCarthy said at the beginning of camp that he didn’t have an issue with the fact that his players didn’t organize informal offseason workouts. Several teams did — including the team the Packers will play in their regular season opener, the New Orleans Saints.
Given the disjointed nature of the offseason, McCarthy said it might be expected that players across the league would make more mistakes in camp. Still, McCarthy said he’s holding his players to the same standard he always does and now needs them to “mentally tighten it down.”
Rodgers didn’t want to overreact to one sloppy practice, but he did show frustration at mental mistakes by the offense — something he thought might be the result of players not showing up in shape, although he didn’t call his teammates out by name.
“To me, this is a self-motivated league,” Rodgers said. “In order to be successful, you have to be willing to put the time in on your own. And part of that is coming into camp in shape. I think you saw last night, we got tired last night and there was a lot of mental mistakes. So we’ve got to pick up the urgency I think.”
Rodgers hasn’t been perfect himself, throwing an interception to undrafted rookie Brandian Ross in Saturday’s rain-shortened Family Night event.
“It surprised me, too, I don’t know what he’s doing jumping that route,” Rodgers joked. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good in a situation like that.”
Rodgers said the defense generally is a step ahead of the offense at this point in camp, as the offense installs some of its more complex concepts.
“So I’m not overly concerned about a practice like last night,” Rodgers said. “I think the thing that you think about is the tempo and urgency. I feel good about where I’m at, I feel like I’m moving well in the pocket, the ball’s coming out well. It’ll be nice to get back on the field and start running stuff that we’re going to run during the season.”
Packers safety Nick Collins said the offense and defense try to make practices as competitive as possible — both to get each other ready for the regular season and break up some of the monotony of camp.
“We feel, as a team, we give each other the best look for our opponents,” Collins said. “We kind of make it interesting, have fun, crack little jokes.”
An indication of that competitiveness: When an offensive player makes a shoestring catch in practice, defensive players on the sideline immediately yell and point to the ground, lobbying for an incompletion.
“That’s just the characters that we have on this team,” Collins said. “That’s why I feel like we have another special group, and the sky’s the limit for us. We’ve just got to go out and grab it, and at the same time, have fun doing it.”