GREEN BAY — Earlier in camp, Aaron Rodgers received an across-the-country complaint. Or maybe it was just an observation.
Whichever it was, it came from Los Angeles Chargers center Corey Linsley, Rodgers’ former Green Bay Packers batterymate who had been monitoring as best he could the travails of his successor at center, rookie second-round pick Josh Myers.
“Corey is telling me I’m being way too soft on him,” related Rodgers, who lined up at quarterback with Linsley in front of him for seven seasons — including 2014, when Linsley was a rookie fifth-round pick.
“I will say, I learned from working with Corey. I think if Josh talked to Corey and Corey was like, ‘Hey, what’s 12 been like? Is he ripping your (expletive) and getting on you a little bit?’ Josh would maybe describe me as a kinder, gentler quarterback at this stage (than in 2014). So, apologies to Corey.”
That apology to Linsley came several weeks ago. During Thursday’s practice — the Packers’ final practice of camp, with Saturday’s preseason finale at Buffalo looming — no one, including Linsley, would have accused Rodgers of being too soft on his rookie center.
Instead, when Myers didn’t snap the ball on time during an 11-on-11 period with hip-hop music blasting from the on-field speakers, Rodgers chewed him out in a big way, complete with an angry tone and a naughty word or two as he burned a timeout.
It wasn’t the first time Myers had a rookie moment as he struggled during the first of the Packers’ two joint practices with the New York Jets last week, but Rodgers’ harsher rebuke on Thursday came with a purpose:
With the Sept. 12 season opener just over two weeks away in New Orleans, where a full Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be filled to capacity with boisterous Saints fans, Myers and Rodgers will have to be very much on the same page to deal with the decibel level — something that wasn’t an issue during their win over the Saints last season, when the stadium was empty because of COVID-19.
“I was very gentle and patient early in camp, (but) there has to be a switch because we’re getting a little closer. It’s important that he feels the urgency in my demeanor moving forward,” explained Rodgers, who is likely to open the season with two rookies protecting him as the line shuffle created by five-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari’s likely absence has rookie fourth-round pick Royce Newman working with the starters at right guard.
“Especially with potentially a young person playing next to him, we need (Myers) to play more like a veteran and not like a rookie,” Rodgers continued. “It’s not something that we haven’t demanded out of guys in his position before.”
Indeed, in 2014, Linsley was thrust into the opening-day lineup when expected starter JC Tretter suffered a major knee injury in the third preseason game. To that point, he hadn’t snapped a single ball to Rodgers in practice, and the two had just eight days to work together before kicking off the year at Seattle in the NFL’s loudest outdoor stadium. Predictably, Linsley made a mistake — one very similar to Myers’ error on Thursday, not snapping the ball when Rodgers was calling for it, forcing a timeout.
Unlike Myers, who was chastised in the relative privacy of Ray Nitschke Field, Rodgers verbally dressed Linsley down before a crowd of 68,464 and a national television audience of 22.5 million.
Linsley went on to hold the starting center job when healthy for the rest of his Packers career and was named first-team All-Pro last season before the Chargers made him the NFL’s highest-paid center in free agency in March.
“Corey Linsley did it. (He) started, played against Seattle his first game and lined up against (three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman) Michael Bennett for most of the game,” Rodgers recalled. “(Myers) is capable of it. The good thing is there’s a lot of situations that have happened over the last couple weeks that are great teaching moments. The more that we can put ourselves in situations like today — which, I really enjoyed today’s practice (with) the noise, which we haven’t done before — the more we can have situations come up that we can learn from.
“What happened today was a conversation that we had one time and the situation came up and he didn’t respond how we talked about. But I would guess, knowing him a little bit now, that that’ll be his one-time mistake on that. You need plays like that. I’m not mad about that. I’m frustrated he didn’t snap it at the moment, but I’m not ultimately mad. I’m way happier it happened in practice than down in New Orleans.”
Said offensive line coach Adam Stenavich: “I’ve seen those two have a lot of really good conversations. Aaron’s been great with Josh. It’s funny, all the different things that come up between a quarterback and a center you can’t really coach. There are all kinds of different scenarios that come up, so it’s pretty cool to watch Aaron interact with him, and him learn how he wants things and the calls he makes.”Running back Aaron Jones has been where Myers was on Thursday. For Jones, it happened during a day-before-the-game walk-through during his rookie season of 2017.
“I ran into him on a handoff,” Jones recalled, chuckling. “I was supposed to just sit there and he was going to bring the ball to me, but I slid into him, and I ended up hitting him.
“It’s OK to make mistakes. He just doesn’t want you to make the same mistakes, and he wants you to learn from them. He just wants it to be perfect for when we get in the game. So he’d rather the mistakes happen now versus later on. He might get a little hot at you, but then he’s going to pull you to the side and coach you up like a great leader and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Later in practice, Rodgers did just that with Myers, patting him on the chest after having plenty of time to loft a deep touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan.
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