Packers Notebook - Sept. 5

Bill Huber

Rested Rodgers ready to go

Under the best of circumstances, the Green Bay Packers would have faced a daunting challenge in their season-opening game against the Chicago Bears.

With the addition of Khalil Mack, the Bears fielded arguably the best defense in the NFL last season en route to winning the NFC North.

Adding to the challenge is the Packers’ full No. 1 offense didn’t play a single snap in the preseason. While some of the starters played in the second preseason game against Baltimore, quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in that game because of a stiff back. And he didn’t play the following week in Winnipeg against Oakland because of field conditions.

So, ready or not, Rodgers will attempt to slay the Monsters of the Midway without any game reps running first-year coach Matt LaFleur’s offense.

“Well (the Bears) haven’t played much in the preseason, so I’m sure you guys can write a story about that,” Rodgers said on Sunday.

For years, Rodgers has downplayed the importance of preseason football. While the preseason games might have merit for some positions, that’s not necessarily true for a quarterback, whose job is as much mental as physical. With teams running watered-down versions of their defenses in the preseason, a quarterback isn’t facing a realistic test. In fact, in Rodgers’ mind, the more realistic challenge is facing his own defense every day on the practice field.

“You’re going against your own defense full speed,” Rodgers said. “Yeah, the game speed is a step above the practice speed, but it wouldn’t matter who you’re playing. It’s the National Football League. It’s a fast game and things happen quickly. You have to rely on your training, your experience in these situations.”

Rodgers has embraced the scheme being employed by LaFleur. Rodgers has seen this offense work for the Falcons and Rams. He’s called it “fun” during previous interview sessions. Hopes are high after the Packers tied for 14th in scoring last season and Rodgers struggled through one of the worst seasons of his career.

Rodgers did his best to temper those expectations on Sunday. There probably will be some growing pains as the offense tries to build an identity. And it certainly doesn’t help to face the Bears and Vikings out of the gate.

“I think everybody needs to understand this is going to be the first iteration of our offense and, because it’s a new scheme and there are new pieces, this is going to grow from this point,” he said. “I’m excited about the stuff we have in and the stuff we’ve been working on in camp. There’s going to be even more. I think that’s the exciting part.”

King’s return

Cornerback Kevin King, who has played in only 15 of a possible 32 games in his career and ended both seasons on injured reserve, returned to practice on Sunday after missing a month with a hamstring injury.

Even with only three days of practice, King expects to be in the lineup against the Bears.

“I don’t really tell too many lies,” King said.

King has been a huge disappointment. The Packers could have used their first-round pick in 2017 on Wisconsin star T.J. Watt. Instead, then-general manager Ted Thompson traded out of the first round and wound up with King in the second round. Watt has been a dominant all-around defender — so dominant, in fact, that he’s even broken up more passes than King.

King’s goal for this year is simple but daunting.

“Try and play all 19 games and win (the Super Bowl) on Feb. 2. That’s what I want,” he said.

Packers stay young

While the official numbers won’t come out until after Week 1, Green Bay’s roster is as young as ever.

In an annual review of the initial 53-man rosters ( conducted by the Philly Voice’s Eagles beat writer, Jimmy Kempski, the Packers have the league’s fifth-youngest roster with an average age of 25.5. Green Bay stayed young, in part, by keeping all eight of its draft picks on the roster. That’s only the second time in 20 years that’s happened.

“I just think they won the jobs, quite frankly,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “We’re obviously a draft-and-develop team — that’s kind of the foundation of what we do around here but, at the same time, you’ve got to earn it. I think those guys earned the right to be in that locker room.”

Safety swap

As part of Gutekunst’s offseason spending binge, he signed safety Adrian Amos away from the rival Bears. To fill the void, the Bears signed former Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. At this point, both sides are happy.

“Just by watching his tape, you knew he was a good player,” Gutekunst said. “He was explosive, he was fast, he was physical. I think the thing from when we acquired Adrian was his ability to run the back end, communicate, feed it, be a really good addition to that room. That was something you never really know until you get him into your building and that’s been a great surprise. Along with Tramon Williams, it’s really been a nice steady hand, a veteran’s presence there.”

Clinton-Dix had three interceptions when he was traded to Washington after the seventh game of the season. The rest of the team had four interceptions. With his big-play production, he should fit a defense that specializes in putting heat on the quarterback.

“Well, we’ll see, but so far I’ll tell you what I’m really, really proud of the way he’s handled himself since he’s been here,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said in a conference call with Packers beat reporters. “He’s been absolutely awesome. He’s completely all-in on the culture that we have here, how we do things, his teammates. They’re brothers, man. It’s cool.”

Historic meeting

The NFL is kicking off its 100th season in style. Including a split of two playoff games, this will be the 199th matchup between the longtime rivals. The Packers hold a scant 97-95-6 lead, with Rodgers a preposterous 17-5.

“I think it’s pretty fitting considering it’s the oldest rivalry in the game,” Rodgers said. “We’ve played each so many times. It was always big Chicago against little Green Bay. We’ve held our own over the years and it’s always been a great rivalry. It’s one of the special ones in the history of professional sports. Obviously, a lot of great players and great names on both sides have played in this game. It’s fun to be a part of it now for, this is my 23rd time, I think.”