Saturday night rainout gives Packers a 2-day break
The Packers’ fan base is now firmly entrenched behind their young quarterback a year removed from an awkward family night scrimmage that featured Brett Favre flying in and watching from a private luxury box.
But none of the Packers got a chance to play in the team’s most unique event of the season on Saturday night after strong thunderstorms swept through the area, leaving more than 50,000 fans without an early season football fix.
“I didn’t get booed and I didn’t throw any interceptions tonight, so that was good,” Rodgers joked. “Last time was an interesting night with everything that happened during the day, but it was the beginning of a solid preseason and moving forward as a team together.”
The Packers knew that this year’s scrimmage would lack the off-field drama of last year’s event when Favre returned days before his eventual trade to the New York Jets.
Turns out, it lacked any on-field drama, too.
Heavy rains began about 15 minutes before the scrimmage was scheduled to begin with players just finishing warmups and the lightning never let up. After a delay of an hour and a half, the event was called.
“Warmups were a lot of fun, I saw some cool signs out there, interesting signs, but we apologize as a team for not being able to play tonight,” Rodgers said. “You always love playing family night in front of a packed house and an electric stadium.”
The rainout means that the Packers will have two days off in a time of year known more for two daily practices.
Coach Mike McCarthy said they wouldn’t make changes to the schedule and that the complete offensive and defensive packages would be installed this week.
“We’re definitely on track. I’m very pleased with the amount of work and the quality of work we’ve been able to accomplish to this point,” McCarthy said.
The Packers’ preseason opener is Saturday night against Cleveland, but this scrimmage was supposed to be the first glimpse into Green Bay’s 3-4 base defense installed by defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
“I think we were ready to get out there in a game atmosphere. It’s different this year with our new defense,” Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “Everything we do is pretty important. I don’t think it’s going to hurt us, but I think it’s something we were looking forward to, going out there tonight.”
One player who wouldn’t be featured is first-round pick B.J. Raji. Selected No. 9 overall, Raji has been in Green Bay, but has held out while the defensive lineman’s contract negotiations continue.
General manager Ted Thompson said Saturday night he’s still not sure there’s a timetable on signing him, but they continue to work at it.
“Hopefully he can jump right in, you know, with some extra work. It won’t take him too long to catch up,” defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said. “It’s definitely not benefiting him not being here. ... He’s in a difficult spot.”
While several key players weren’t expected to participate in the scrimmage, including starting cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris, others were ready to play in the event that included fireworks. The fireworks show did go on as scheduled with about 15,000 of the 50,787 in attendance remaining.
“We were hopeful that we could get (the scrimmage) in, but the storms just kind of hung over the area,” Packers president Mark Murphy said. “It was pretty apparent after a while it was not going to move through as quickly as we had anticipated.”
The year before, Favre flew to Green Bay the night of the event before his reinstatement to the NFL the next day.
While 56,600 fans that night watched Rodgers struggle in the scrimmage, hundreds more greeted Favre at the airport. Favre was traded to the Jets three days later.
Rodgers went on to complete 63.6 percent of his passes for 4,038 yards with 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his first season as starter despite playing through a painful shoulder injury for a large part of the year. But the Packers lost five of their final six games to finish 6-10.
Now they’ll have to wait one more week before showing their new look to the Browns and new coach Eric Mangini, who is trying to pick between quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn.
“It’s not just a normal run of the mill preseason game,” Hawk said. “For both sides, there are story lines that guys are trying to work out, figure out that don’t normally happen.”