GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — There’s no sense downplaying how important this season is for the Green Bay Packers.
“Look, I think we all know what’s at stake,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the reigning league MVP.
Rodgers’ uncertain future with the franchise puts more pressure on the Packers as they pursue their first Super Bowl berth since their 2010 championship season. The Packers have lost in the NFC championship game four of the last seven years, including each of the last two seasons.
After putting together his third MVP season, Rodgers skipped the Packers’ organized team activities and mandatory minicamp as part of a standoff with team officials before arriving for training camp. Rodgers says he wants a voice in the team’s decision-making process and has indicated he doesn’t know whether he will return next year for an 18th season in Green Bay.
Rodgers isn’t the only notable player who could be heading out the door. All-Pro receiver Davante Adams heads the list of Packers whose contracts are set to expire at the end of the season.
Green Bay is coming off a second straight 13-3 season. Rodgers leads a star-studded offense that produced a league-high 31.8 points per game last season. The defense features a premier pass rusher in Za’Darius Smith and one of the game’s top cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander.
The Packers can worry about the future later. For now, they’re eager to make the most of the opportunity standing right in front of them.
“It’s going to be a long, long journey to get back to where we were, and obviously in the locker room, around the league, in the media, everywhere, the expectation is very high,” safety Adrian Amos said. “Because if you don’t get at least to where you were before, everybody sees it as failure. But we can’t look at it that way, and I’m not that type of person personally. I’m looking at what can I do tomorrow because we’ve got to get to that point.”
OFFENSIVE LINE ISSUES
The Packers boasted two All-Pro offensive linemen last year in left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley. They won’t have either at the start of this season.
Linsley left for the Los Angeles Chargers via free agency. Bakhtiari remains with the team, but will start the season on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he will miss at least the first six games after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31.
Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins is expected to move to left tackle while Bakhtiari is sidelined. Green Bay’s first-team offensive line at the beginning of the season could feature two rookies in center Josh Myers and guard Royce Newman.
“We’ve had some veteran lines over the years,” Rodgers said. “This won’t be one of them. There’ll be some young guys playing and some guys playing spots they haven’t played a ton of time at. That’s just the way it goes. There’s not going to be a grace period, though, I can promise you that.”
The Packers didn’t bring back Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator and fired Shawn Mennenga as special teams coordinator after their NFC championship game loss to Tampa Bay.
Joe Barry is the new defensive coordinator after coaching the Los Angeles Rams’ linebackers the last four years. Maurice Drayton was promoted from assistant special teams coach to special teams coordinator.
Barry’s two previous stints as a coordinator in Washington and Detroit didn’t go well, but Packers players say they love the energy he brings.
“He’s someone you want to play for, someone you want to be around,” linebacker Krys Barnes said.
JONES’ NEW RUNNING MATE
Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones stayed with Green Bay rather than departing as a free agent, but former backfield mate Jamaal Williams is now with the Detroit Lions.
Williams’ departure means 2020 second-round draft pick A.J. Dillon takes on a bigger role as the complementary back to Jones. Dillon rushed for just 242 yards as a rookie but showed his potential with a 124-yard performance in a late-season victory over Tennessee.
WELCOME BACK, COBB
Wide receiver Randal Cobb, who last played for the Packers from 2011-18, returned to Green Bay at the start of training camp. The Packers reacquired Cobb from Houston at Rodgers’ suggestion.
Cobb joins a deep receiving corps that features Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard. Last year, Adams became the first NFL player to have at least 100 receptions and 18 touchdown catches in the same season.
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