The Green Bay Packers are hitting international soil for the first time this week, facing the chaotic Oakland Raiders at IG Stadium in Winnipeg, Canada. Perhaps more valuable than your average preseason game, this opportunity lets the Packers connect with an international audience and meet an entirely new group of fans. These fans will get to see young players like Darrius Shepherd and Curtis Bolton build on their excellent preseason performances and may even be treated to see some starters. Unfortunately, one thing the Canadian audience shouldn’t expect to see is a performance from Aaron Rodgers.
Regardless of how Rodgers’ back feels, the Packers shouldn’t play him this preseason. As disappointing as this may be for fans, the risks simply outweigh the benefits.
It’s true that the Packers are installing a completely new offensive scheme and that there are many new teammates Rodgers hasn’t played with in an NFL game. It’s true that many young wide receivers could use reps from Rodgers to build trust. But in truth, these are better accomplished in practice than an exhibition game.
Matt LaFleur won’t want to tip off defensive coordinators to what his true offense looks like until the games actually matter. So far, the team has run a vanilla scheme, and there is no reason to expect that to change against the Raiders. There won’t be a true “dress rehearsal” of LaFleur’s offense until the Packers face the Bears in Week 1. Because of this, practice snaps are actually more valuable for Rodgers than preseason snaps.
Rodgers said as much himself, offering “The best reps I’m going to see all summer are in practice. If Matt wants us to play, we’ll play and go out and compete. If not, I feel pretty good about where we’re at.”
“If we didn’t play, I’d feel great going into Week 1. If we did, I wouldn’t really be worried too much about the results,” Rodgers said, according to packers.com. “If we go down and score a touchdown, it’s not going to give me any more confidence than I already have in the scheme. If we go three-and-out, it’s not going to dampen any confidence I have in what we’ve established so far in the training camp practices.”
In addition to the above, Rodgers tends to take more risks in practice, being more willing to throw into tighter coverage to see what happens and risking yolobombs downfield. This allows him to build trust with his receivers outside of the preseason, as seen in training camp reports from his growing chemistry with Robert Tonyan and Jake Kumerow. Rodgers is getting everything he needs from practice.
While seeing proof on the field against unfamiliar defensive players would be entertaining, the injury risk isn’t worth it. Rodgers missed most of 2017 and was hobbled in 2018, and we saw how those teams looked. The Packers success is dependent on Rodgers, who is getting older and has a concerning injury history. Rodgers getting hurt in a meaningless game would be the absolute worst thing that could happen to this team, sans a meteor taking the entire team out.
It’s unfortunate for the Canadian fans, especially with the cost of tickets being high, but the best thing the Green Bay Packers can do is sit their franchise star and focus on Week 1. Matt LaFleur’s Packers have a lot to prove, but an exhibition game isn’t the place for it.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.