Trust test:

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Jim Owczarski

In or­der for his wide­outs to run their routes to per­fec­tion, Aaron Rodgers puts them through a unique screen­ing process.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Be­hind the dark green tarps sur­round­ing Clarke Hin­kle Field, Aaron Rodgers turns his shoul­ders and ges­tures. The wide re­ceiver down the line of scrim­mage sees the hand mo­tion. Not only must he have seen it — he has to know what to do with the sig­nal. Is it real? Is it a de­coy? He’d bet­ter know.

In­side the of­fen­sive meet­ing room within Lam­beau Field, Rodgers high­lights a route con­cept. It’s the tight end he’s speak­ing about, and he walks through what he’s see­ing, what he wants ac­com­plished on the play. But it’s not just about the tight end. The re­ceivers had bet­ter be lis­ten­ing.

These are lessons, taught from the be­gin­ning of team ac­tiv­i­ties in the spring through the reg­u­lar sea­son. And the tests are com­ing.

Per­haps it’s that same day. Maybe Rodgers will cir­cle back on them in a week. Or six. Tests must be passed, or a wide re­ceiver isn’t get­ting many reps with the start­ing quar­ter­back, let alone an of­fi­cial pass on game day.

Rodgers is of­ten asked about his trust in re­ceivers, and it can feel like an ethe­real con­cept. He makes it any­thing but. There’s no way to get it un­less it’s hard­earned.

The class­room

Study the op­po­nent, meet, break it down. Rodgers has the con­trol and he pauses the video af­ter the snap.

“Do they score?”

It’s yes or no, but also a quick ac­count­abil­ity check. Did you study? Do you know it?

Each week, Rodgers and the of­fense re­view his hand sig­nals for the game. And it’s more than just a fin­ger twirl or pan­tomim­ing smok­ing — it can be their en­tire of­fen­sive lan­guage. One play might have three sig­nals. And some might have mean­ings mod­i­fied so as not to tele­graph their in­tent to the de­fense.

They must be mem­o­rized, im­me­di­ately. On the field, a mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion could lead to an in­com­ple­tion or worse: a busted con­nec­tion that ends up with a turnover.

The day be­fore a game, the en­tire of­fense meets to go over sig­nals. Ev­ery po­si­tion group on the of­fense has to know them, but re­ceivers get Rodgers’ ex­tra at­ten­tion. He calls vet­er­ans and rook­ies to the front of the room and quizzes them. If you aren’t quite up to speed, well — there is lit­tle mercy.

“Aaron would pick on me,” laughed for­mer Pack­ers re­ceiver Brett Swain, who was drafted in 2008 when Rodgers be­came the starter. “Usu­ally you change a per­son from week-to-week. This week Don­ald (Driver) would go. This week Jordy (Nel­son) would go. The next week James (Jones) would go. We got to a point where week in, week out, Brett would go. Un­til I knew ev­ery sin­gle hand sig­nal. It got to a point where there was no way I was go­ing to miss it. As a young re­ceiver, you miss those lit­tle things.”

There are other tests. Take the self-re­view of a sin­gle Pack­ers play as an ex­am­ple. Rodgers runs it on screen and ex­plains what he sees. The mes­sage, in the mo­ment, might be to tight end Jimmy Gra­ham. But Gra­ham isn’t the one be­ing taught.

“If I’m talk­ing to Jimmy about some­thing, if you don’t write it down, you bet­ter lock it away,” Rodgers said in an in­ter­view with the Jour­nal-Sen­tinel. “Be­cause if you make the same mis­take, I’m go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed be­cause I just cov­ered that with some­body else.”

There’s more. Routes are de­signed for a rea­son — each not only has its own life, but they play off one an­other. If a re­ceiver runs his pat­tern in­cor­rectly, it can af­fect oth­ers. And in turn, the quar­ter­back’s vi­sion and


Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers cel­e­brates with wide re­ceiver Da­vante Adams (17) af­ter a touch­down.

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