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After Offseason of Change, Do Packers Need Rodgers at OTAs?

No, quarterbacks coach Tom Clements said on Thursday. Here's why.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Last offseason, when in the middle of his feud with the organization, Aaron Rodgers skipped the Green Bay Packers’ offseason program. He was a no-show for the workouts, he was AWOL for the three weeks of organized team activities and he was absent from the mandatory minicamp.

Rodgers, as it turns out, was just fine. He won his fourth NFL MVP award and for a second consecutive season finished No. 1 in passer rating, touchdown percentage and interception percentage.

At age 38, secure with his own off-the-field habits and comfortable with his place in the organization, Rodgers might not be on the field for the start of organized team activities on Monday but will at least be a partial participant this year.

“I’ll be back there a few more days (in May) and then for the (June) minicamp,” Rodgers said on The Pat McAfee Show during the first round of the NFL Draft. “I’m excited to get back there and get things going. I’m going to put in the time to make it work with those guys and we’re going to find a way.”

Entering Year 4 with coach Matt LaFleur and with 14 years of starting experience under his belt, Rodgers could teach the offense and the fundamentals required to play the position. He knows what it takes to get ready physically and mentally for the grind of a long season.

“Aaron doesn’t need reps at this time of the year,” Tom Clements, back for his second stint as quarterbacks coach, said on Thursday. “Obviously, it’d be nice to have him here, but he’s seen these things 1,000 times and he’ll be ready to go when training camp starts.”

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That’s true. Rodgers will be ready. What about everyone else? This isn’t like last season, when Rodgers rolled into training camp ready to make more magic with All-Pro receiver Davante Adams and the rest of an established group of pass-catchers. In an offseason of significant change, Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders and Marquez Valdes-Scantling signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

While Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are back, Rodgers must form chemistry with veteran Sammy Watkins and figure out if rookies Christian Watson, Romeos Doubs and Samori Toure can be counted on to make a play on third-and-5 in the fourth quarter.

Rodgers understands that, which is why he’ll be in Green Bay for some of the practices.

But will that be enough? Doesn’t Rodgers need as many reps as possible with his fleet of new receivers?

No, Clements said. For years, Rodgers has said there’s the playbook that’s on paper and the playbook that’s run during games. The rookies, in Clemens’ opinion, need to master that on-paper playbook before moving onto Rodgers’ graduate-level approach to combating what opponents are throwing at the offense. The learning needs to happen in May and June so they can hit the ground running in August.

“I think it’s best for them to learn what’s going on so they’re ready to go in training camp,” Clements said. “At this time of the year, they’re learning, making mistakes, learning from their mistakes. Hopefully, when training camp comes, they’re ready to do their best and I think that they’ll be enough time for Aaron to work with them.”