With the Green Bay Packers’ depleted tight end corps, Richard Rodgers has played 124 snaps the last two games.
That’s nothing compared to the workload from his final season at Cal.
“You’ve just got to fight through it,” Rodgers said. “I just go out and do whatever I’m asked. It’s not that hard to play that many plays, coming from a college system where I played possibly 100 plays in a game. That helps a little bit. You’ve really just got to fight through it.”
Following a strong finish to his rookie season, big things were expected from Rodgers entering this season. Then veteran tight end Andrew Quarless sustained a knee injury against Kansas City. That left Rodgers as essentially a one-man band, with the coaching staff lacking the faith to play rookie Kennard Backman more than a play here and there the past two weeks.
Though five games, Rodgers has caught 19 passes for 155 yards. The last two games, he’s caught 11 passes for 90 yards (8.2 average). By our numbers, 60 of those came after the catch (5.5 average). Compare that to his first three games, when he caught eight passes for 65 yards (8.1 average), with 28 coming after the catch (3.5 average).
“I think it’s just mind over matter,” he said. “You’ve just got to get it done.”
If Rodgers has been overworked, he wasn’t going to use it as an excuse. And certainly not on his lone dropped pass of the season — the potential 30-yard touchdown he flubbed in the third quarter last week against St. Louis.
“Nah, if you watched on film, I just dropped it,” he said. “I closed my right hand too early on the bottom. I just dropped it. It wasn’t anything do with fatigue or anything like that.”
Tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said Rodgers has handled the workload well.
“I don’t think that we’ve asked him to do anything outside of his capabilities,” Fontenot said. “We certainly do keep count of how much action he’s getting in the game, but throughout the course of a game, he is getting breaks. With what we’re asking him to do and the personnel groups that we rotate in and out of the game, he’s going to get a break at some point. It’s not like he’s having nonstop action the whole time. At the end of the day, we keep track of how many reps that he’s had. He’s handling them just fine.”
The past two weeks, Rodgers has played 93.2 percent of the offensive snaps. That’s a heavy workload, but Rodgers isn’t unfamiliar with hard work. Because of his role under the previous coaching staff scheme and a foot injury, Rodgers’ weight ballooned to 280 pounds during the spring before his final season at Cal. With the new coaching staff, Rodgers was asked to be a supersized receiver. So he ran — and ran some more — to get down to 250.
Perhaps Backman will earn a larger role. Maybe Justin Perillo, who was promoted from the practice squad, will lessen the burden on Rodgers. Until that happens, it’s not just that physical conditioning that Rodgers is leaning on. It’s the mental, too.
“There’s not much you can do to really prepare. It’s more mental,” he said. “My offseason program my last year in college, that was pretty intense. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as tired as I was at that time. When you get so tired mentally to the point where you can barely stand up, then everything else after that you can push through.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.