GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Even if Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers does play in Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City -- something that appears unlikely -- this will be his lightest exhibition workload since he became a starter in 2008.
Through three preseason games, Rodgers has played in only five series for a total of 45 snaps. For comparative purposes, Rodgers averaged 13.6 series and 80.4 snaps of preseason action per summer from 2008 to 2012.
It was evident early in training camp that Packers coach Mike McCarthy had a different plan for his 29-year-old starting quarterback by limiting his practice reps. But not until Rodgers played only one series in the third preseason game was it clear just how significantly the approach had changed. Typically, the third preseason game is when the starters play the most. A year ago, Rodgers played six series and 41 snaps in that game at Cincinnati.
2013 Preseason Snaps for Projected Starting QBs
ESPN.com’s Mike Sando compiled preseason snap counts for all 32 presumptive starting quarterbacks, and Rodgers’ 45 snaps rank him 30th on that list. Only San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick (33 snaps) and Washington’s Robert Griffin III (who hasn’t played a snap while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery) have played less.
It’s understandable that established quarterbacks like Rodgers, who this offseason signed a five-year, $110 million contract extension, might not need the same number of snaps as a developmental starter such as Miami’s Ryan Tannehill (who leads all starters with 103 snaps this season) or Tennessee’s Jake Locker (second with 97 snaps). But that hasn’t stopped Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh from playing Joe Flacco 95 snaps (third most) or Denver Broncos coach John Fox from playing Peyton Manning 94 snaps (fourth most). Even New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has played starter Tom Brady (86 snaps, sixth most) a considerable amount.
“We have a plan to make sure he’s ready,” Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo said of Rodgers. “We’re going to keep him sharp on fundamentals. We have a plan in place.”
Perhaps that’s why Rodgers on Monday took nothing but scout-team reps in practice. While that’s an indication he won’t play against the Chiefs, it was a way for Rodgers to get some work. In fact, Rodgers’ scout-team work came with many of the starters, including receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, neither of whom has played in the preseason because of injuries.
There were 44 snaps in three team periods combined on Monday, and Rodgers took 11 of them -- all with the scout team. On one play, Rodgers uncorked a deep pass to Nelson that went for an 85-yard touchdown.
“It’s important for us to find some time to get some reps in,” Rodgers said. “We’ve been throwing on the side a little bit with Jordy, and hit Jordy on a nice long one in the scout team work as well. That’s going to be our opportunities before the season starts. We’re going to have to find that connection here in the next couple of weeks.”
There’s been no reason to be concerned about Rodgers’ play this preseason. He has completed 17 of 24 passes (70.8 percent) for 237 yards and hasn’t turned it over. However, he hasn’t led a touchdown drive, and the starting offense has accounted for just nine points. It's just that the sample size has been small.
Rodgers said he’s more concerned about his conditioning than being sharp. He said he has “been doing stuff on the side” to make sure he’s ready for the Sept. 8 opener at San Francisco.
“I’d say Aaron’s in his game-ready shape,” McCarthy said. “He’s been very sharp. I feel very confident that Aaron’s ready to go.”