"I think Aaron Rodgers is given an excellent opportunity to succeed here at quarterback," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said.
The sentiment voiced at the end of training camp was confirmation of earlier well-cited utterances made by McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson to the effect of "it's time to move on" and "Aaron Rodgers is our starting quarterback."
One of the more abbreviated Green Bay training camps in recent years - the team was put through only 25 practices from July 28 to Aug. 26 - was dominated early on by searing national exposure when Brett Favre came out of retirement. Favre, the face of the franchise for the better part of his 16-year run as the Packers' only starting quarterback, caused a stir by reporting to the team after a week of camp. He never suited up and didn't make so much as a cameo appearance on the practice field. His ploy on the heels of a festering feud with club management orchestrated through the media resulted in Favre being traded two days later, on Aug. 6, to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick in 2009.
To Rodgers' credit, he didn't crumble in the face of a potential return to the Packers by Favre, who undoubtedly would have reclaimed his starting job despite contentions by Thompson and McCarthy that Rodgers would have had a fair shot to remain the starter in a purported competition.
"I think he grew up," McCarthy said of Rodgers. "I think we all grew up a little bit during that situation. I think he did a very good job of handling a challenge, handling a situation that there really wasn't a script for and was unprecedented. I think it is definitely something he can learn from."
Rodgers says he has come away unscathed as a better man and as a more hardened player who has been entrusted like no other to follow in the footsteps of the NFL's only three-time MVP, who, at age 38, nearly rallied the league's youngest team to the Super Bowl last season.
"I'm ready for anything, I feel like," Rodgers said. "It's been a difficult time the last few months, as far as the attention I've gotten, but I think I'm ready for it. I know it's going to be amped up once the season starts. I'm going to be definitely scrutinized, but that's the job of being an NFL quarterback.
"There's a lot of pressure on you outside of the building. Guys expect you to play well inside of the locker room. I think I'm ready for anything that comes, and I'm just trying to take it in stride."
It's a golden opportunity for which Rodgers has patiently waited after three years of backing up Favre, but with it come the weekly comparisons that will be made to what Favre does with the Jets and high expectations from many Packers backers who won't be cutting the new guy any slack this season.
Even if Rodgers quiets his critics by avoiding the injury bug that has bitten him in the past and puts up solid numbers, it might not be enough for the Packers to reprise last season's 14-4 run to the NFC Championship Game and possibly take that next crucial step.
Green Bay enters the 2008 season, which starts with a prime-time matchup against rival Minnesota on Sept. 8, with big question marks on both sides of the ball. Injuries that cropped up throughout the preseason are the primary culprit.
In an effort to lessen the burden on Rodgers, McCarthy said the defense would be the catalyst for the team this season. Yet, the line was depleted with injuries to irreplaceable tackle Ryan Pickett and sack producer Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, and budding linebacker A.J. Hawk also was felled early in camp. All of them are iffy to be game-ready for the opener.
The interior of the offensive line, a source of concern since 2006, was in turmoil because of significant injuries to center Scott Wells and rookie guard Josh Sitton, who will miss the first quarter of the season with a torn MCL.
Perhaps the biggest "x" factor is at running back with Ryan Grant, who incidentally was a godsend in what he delivered the second half of last season. The league's leading rusher in that span enters this season with only a few game reps under his belt after missing most of the preseason because of a combination of contract and injury issues.
So, in many ways, the reigning NFC North champion is a team without an identity.
"Your team is never where you want it to be," said McCarthy, though adding, "It's a football team that has an opportunity to be a good football team."
Rodgers had a few hecklers, including children, go so far as to utter profanity at him as he pulled up in the morning to the gate of the players' parking lot at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers said the unpleasant atmosphere eventually subsided by the midpoint of camp.
"That was really just one or two negative fans, definitely isolated," Rodgers said. "The fans have been great. Ninety-nine percent of ‘em have been great. That's the ones I'm going to focus on."
Rodgers' intense focus on leading the Packers offense for the first time kept him from noticing how sparse the attendance was at the team's camps practices across the street from Lambeau Field after Favre's departure.
The notorious railbirds that would line the fences around the field had dwindled to no more than a couple hundred on some days, making this year's camp the least attended since the revival of the franchise in the early 1990s.
The last of 22 practices that were open to the public was Aug. 26.
Despite what he termed a "disjointed" calendar, head coach Mike McCarthy was happy with the output by his players on the field.
"I thought the quality was high, what I refer to as the way we practice. Our tempo and the energy that we had was far better than the first two years," McCarthy said. "I think the less practices helped us in that. I felt our football players were out here working to improve.
They weren't out here trying to survive. They were thriving individually, and I think that's important, and I think the schedule helped them."
As such, McCarthy gave the players three days off, Aug. 29 to 31, before they start a long week of preparations for the opener with practice on Labor Day.
"It's (time) off, but like I told them, it's not vacation," McCarthy said. "We have treatments; the weight-room hours are open. It's really a time for our football team to get their bodies back."
BY THE NUMBERS: 1. Players on the Packers roster the team acquired before 2000. Receiver Donald Driver, a seventh-round draft pick in 1999, has the longest tenure on the club.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "People are going to challenge us running the football this year. We know that is a focus. We know that is how people want to play us. We welcome that; we enjoy it; and we think it gives us the opportunity to play downhill in certain downs and distances." — Head coach Mike McCarthy on Green Bay's run defense, which struggled in the preseason with an injury-depleted line.