GREEN BAY, Wis. – There’s the playbook that’s on Josh Myers’ iPad. Then there’s the playbook that Aaron Rodgers will use for the Green Bay Packers’ season-opening game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
“For a while there, it was like drinking out of a firehose for me,” Myers, the team’s rookie center, said after Wednesday’s practice of the torrent of information being blasted his way.
It’s been a while since the Packers haven in this situation. Seven years ago, Corey Linsley was thrown into the fire as a rookie starting the opener at Seattle. Famously, Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin said he’d “pray” for Linsley having to deal with both Seattle’s dominant defense and its raucous fans. Now, it’s Myers’ turn for on-the-job training – at a neutral site in Jacksonville but against a high-quality defense.
There were growing pains along the way. A couple weeks ago, Rodgers was furious at Myers for not snapping the (expletive) football. However, Rodgers on Wednesday saluted Myers for his “disposition” and “steadiness” and ability to learn quickly from mistakes. The hope is Myers has seen enough and learned enough on the practice field to hit the ground running against the Saints for this key Week 1 showdown.
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“I think the most important thing is to make all of the reps that we have in walk-throughs and practice game-like in nature,” Rodgers said when asked about having rookies Myers and Royce Newman on the starting line. “Obviously, the tempo at certain times won’t be game-like, but the urgency and the decision-making and the rapid approach to their job is most important. I need them to feel what it’s going to feel like on Sunday at 4:30 when we’re in those situations. The swiftness of the adjustments, the strain of a clock, a play clock that’s down inside 5. So, a lot of these situations that have come up throughout amp and this week, whether intentionally or unintentionally, are really good kind of dry runs for what it’s going to be on Sunday.”
The ability to adjust under pressure will be hugely important. With Rodgers’ legendary mastery of the machinations that take place at the line of scrimmage, combined with the challenge of facing the attacking defense employed by Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, Myers will be put to a 300-level test on Sunday.
“For a while there, it felt like the second I got a new kind of concept down, then immediately another one would get brought up,” Myers said. “It was a real learning process there for a while where constantly new situations were coming up the minute I got one down. As far as I know, that’s stopped for the most part. I think we have everything in from that standpoint. I feel really good about the cohesion between me and him and me being used to having him back there.”