For goodness sakes, can the guy at least take his first snap as a starter?
Somewhere in the three-plus years as a backup in the NFL for the Packers, Rodgers has developed the reputation as being injury-prone by some fans and media. Just listen to the talk at practice or on sports radio, or read the blogs and articles. The feeling is definitely out there.
That is unfortunate, just like the inevitable comparisons to Brett Favre that are ahead for Rodgers this coming season, when, for the first time since 1992, the Packers will field a new starting quarterback.
Speaking of Favre, would it not be safe to say that the three-time league MVP was injury-prone? By several accounts, Favre had at least 16 documented injuries during his career. It was just that his toughness overshadowed them, and he had a sixth sense in avoiding the big hit and side-tepping oncoming rushers.
Maybe Rodgers can do the same. At least give him the chance.
"I think it does kind of bother me to say that (I'm injury-prone)," said Rodgers on May 21 after an off-season practice. "To me, when somebody says injury-prone, it has a negative connotation to it, and a lot of times people can say you're soft because of it. I mean, I had a broken foot and a torn hamstring (the past two seasons). And the other thing is when people who have never played my position or even laced them up before are calling me injury-prone. I have a little bit of a problem with that. For anybody to call anybody in the NFL injury-prone is not a great idea unless you've played that position or the game for a long time because otherwise you don't really know what it's like to be an NFL player.
"I mean, yeah, you're following somebody that had 250-straight starts plus. Obviously that's the standard. If it's an injury because of something you haven't done in the off-season, some work that you can't do on your body, that's one thing. But the kind of work that I've put in, the kind of injuries I've had have kind of been fluke injuries. I'd say I'm one of the most flexible guys on the team."
Rodgers is ready for a healthy year. Based on looks, he is bigger and stronger than ever, and based on his most recent, meaningful playing time, he is making progress with his "sixth sense."
Filling in for the injured Favre last season in the biggest regular-season game of the year at Dallas, Rodgers not only showed a confident calmness, but much better pocket awareness than in past appearances. He got the ball out quicker, avoided the pass rush and read the defenses like a true pro. That is a recipe that guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning follow.
Contrast that Dallas game to other regular-season games Rodgers has seen action in, and there is a noticeable difference. Against the Ravens in 2005 and the Patriots in 2006 — granted, both were blowout losses — Rodgers was slow to react in the pocket and his ball security was a big issue.
Pocket presence will be a huge factor determining results for Rodgers in 2008 — not only in his production, but also with his health. Rodgers took a big shot on one run gaining a first down against the Cowboys last year, and probably knows this year that it will be safer to stay in the pocket, or at least slide sooner if he is going to run.
"Obviously, I want to play all 16 games, but things happen out there that you can't control," said Rodgers. "I just need to be smart as far as my decisions outside the pocket."
As for Rodgers' injuries — a broken foot suffered in 2006 and a hamstring late last year — there should be little concern. Both were freak happenings, as Rodgers alluded to. The first came running out of bounds, untouched, in the aforementioned game against the Patriots, and the second came on the last play of a practice. Neither had anything to do with being in a bad situation or making a mistake.
Rodgers is showing every sign this offseason of being a 16-game quarterback, so for those disbelievers, just wait and see. At least give him a chance because he has earned it after sitting on the bench for the past three years.
Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.