Extra schooling benefits Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers spent nearly two months this off-season prior to the first mini-camp getting tutored by Mike McCarthy and his assistants on the new offense. The time Rodgers spent learning the system in March and April, plus conditioning, has given him a new confidence entering the 2006 training camp.

Brett Favre is the undisputed leader of the Green Bay Packers. He enters the 2006 season with an amazing starting streak of 221 straight regular season games (241 including playoffs), an NFL record for quarterbacks. However, if Favre should go down with an injury, his understudy, Aaron Rodgers, is as ready as ever to step in.

Rodgers spent seven weeks this off-season prior to the team's first minicamp in May, in a "Quarterbacks School" conducted by head coach Mike McCarthy, offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. Rodgers, along with free agent Tom Arth, lifted weights, studied film of offenses and defenses, worked on fundamentals, and learned McCarthy's version of the West Coast offense.

Rodgers, Green Bay's top draft pick in 2005, enters this season much stronger, wiser and a lot more confident than he was as a rookie. The QB school has made a big difference for the University of California product.

"I don't know if I can put it in words how much it helped me," Rodgers said. "It was so much more than fundamentals. We worked on fundamentals pretty hard. I felt like I got to a comfort level with Coach McCarthy's fundamentals. It's still incorporating stuff I learned at Cal from previous quarterback coaches. We spent a lot of time on offense but also on defense and how they try to stop things, their tendencies, watching film from last year – 49ers games, our games. "I feel like my confidence level as far as reading the defense and understanding what we're trying to do and what (the defense) is trying to do is so high that the game has been able to slow down for me, especially during minicamps and OTA's (Organized Team Activities). I'm not where I want to be yet as a quarterback, but I am definitely progressing."

During the practices this month that Favre did not attend, Rodgers took the snaps with the No. 1 offense. The reps are invaluable for a backup who rarely gets any in practice during the regular season. Rodgers played in three games last season, mainly late-game, or lopsided situations. He completed 9 of 16 passes for 65 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. For the little time he received, his potential has been questioned by critics.

"I think he made a lot of strides from an educational standpoint, commitment to training part of it," said McCarthy. "That's a big thing for NFL players, to get to that optimal conditioning. Some players just never do. From an education standpoint from what it takes to play the position, I think he's made leaps and bounds."

The QB school, along with Rodgers' dedication this off-season should ease the minds of critics. When Rodgers gets a chance to play on a regular basis, he'll probably point to this off-season as a key stepping stone in his progress.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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