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Countdown to camp: Rodgers on pace for greatness

Posted Jul 13, 2013

Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman to battle for backup job

The following is the first installment in a series of stories that’ll examine the Packers’ roster position by position. This installment examines the quarterbacks.

GREEN BAY—Entering his ninth NFL training camp and sixth as a starting quarterback, like it or not, Aaron Rodgers will start hearing the word “legacy” soon.

He’s in the prime of his career, and this is when his on-field legacy will get established. Thus far, he has one ring, one Super Bowl MVP award and one league MVP, and now a new contract that will keep him in Green Bay for the foreseeable future.

No matter what happens from here on out, Rodgers will go down as one of the three best quarterbacks in franchise history. How Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Rodgers are ultimately ranked is yet to be determined.

What will Rodgers accomplish the rest of the way? It’s interesting to note the career trajectory of some of the game’s greats, past and present.

Rodgers’ boyhood idol, Joe Montana, didn’t win a league MVP award in his first eight seasons, but won two after that, along with his third and fourth titles and his third Super Bowl MVP.

Tom Brady had three rings, two Super Bowl MVPs and a league MVP in his first eight years, before adding another league MVP in year 11 (2010).

Peyton Manning and Drew Brees both won their lone championships and Super Bowl MVPs to date in their ninth seasons (2006 and 2009, respectively), with Manning adding two of his four league MVPs since his eighth year.

The final verdict awaits, of course, but Rodgers’ task is to continue his impressively high level of play as long as he can, and from there the chips will fall.

In the interest of extending Rodgers’ peak as long as possible, the coaching staff may look at a slight reduction in his snaps in training camp this year. Entering camp with four quarterbacks for the first time since 2007 (not coincidentally, the last year Rodgers was a backup) is an indication the Packers will be monitoring the wear and tear on Rodgers’ arm this summer and the rest of his career.

More attention this summer is likely to be focused on Rodgers’ understudies. With B.J. Coleman entering his second season, he’ll be looking to challenge Graham Harrell for the top backup job, while undrafted rookie Matt Brown will get his first taste of an NFL camp.

As OTAs wrapped up last month, Head Coach Mike McCarthy noted the progress both Coleman and Harrell made during the spring. He pointed to the growth Coleman, a seventh-round draft pick in 2012, has shown with his fundamentals and in coordinating the pass-protection calls against blitzes in practice.

“You just cannot get enough reps for a young quarterback in those situations,” McCarthy said. “He needs those reps and he needs to play.

“B.J. has a ton of talent. He needs to get the game to slow down for him, which is normal for where he is.”

Harrell, the clear No. 2 last season, is further along and has improved every year, according to McCarthy. His next step must come in the preseason games in August.

“He needs to perform in the preseason at a high level. That’s what you look for,” McCarthy said. “He finished the right way against Kansas City last year, but he has to have a good preseason.

“I feel good about those young guys battling it out.”

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