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Gun-and-run attack

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Associated Press
December 10, 2009
— Aaron Rodgers’ strategy for backing out of a snowy driveway sounds a lot like his on-field approach to scrambling: full speed ahead.

More than a foot of snow fell in the area over 24 hours, and Rodgers woke up early Wednesday having to hustle to make morning meetings at Lambeau Field.


“I couldn’t believe how much snow was out there,” Rodgers said. “So I shoveled out just out like four feet in back of my garage, and I just gunned it.”


If the Baltimore Ravens’ defense couldn’t catch him, Rodgers wasn’t about to get his truck stuck in a snowbank.


Hobbled by foot injuries earlier this season, Rodgers was back to his scrambling best in Monday night’s victory over the Ravens. He showed a veteran’s feel for pass rush pressure, consistently slipping away from trouble. He also converted a critical second-and-17 play with a 23-yard scramble in the second quarter.


Rodgers knows NFL teams didn’t consider him much of a runner coming out of college, but he’s proving them wrong as a pro. Today, any team that underrates Rodgers’ scrambling ability could be in for trouble.


“It’s pretty satisfying to be able to move around and be able to make plays with my feet, especially since I think that’s often an overlooked part of my game,” Rodgers said. “Maybe not any more, but especially when I was coming out (of college). I felt like people underrated my athleticism at times.”


Rodgers has been a productive passer since taking over as the starter last season. But when faced with heavy pass rush pressure earlier this season, he sometimes held on to the ball too long.


Now Rodgers seems to have more faith in his line—the Packers have given up only four sacks in their last three games—and coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers’ feel for the dos and don’ts of scrambling was evident Monday night.


“When you train the quarterback to have in-pocket awareness and out-of-pocket awareness, there’s the gray area: When do you stay in, when do you come out?,” McCarthy said. “It’s a whole another phase of quarterback development that you’re always working on. And I thought he was very smart.”


Rodgers never vented frustration about his shoddy protection earlier this season. But he now says he has a “good feel” for the line, which has been bolstered by the return of veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher and a renewed commitment to the short passing game.


“Having those guys being able to play together now for a couple weeks in a row, I feel like we’re on the same page time-clock wise,” Rodgers said. “And it’s nice having ‘Tausch’ over there, he’s been very consistent for us.”


Rodgers said the Packers were surprised at how much linebacker pressure the Ravens brought on Monday, trying to contain Rodgers in the pocket. It didn’t work, as the Ravens only sacked Rodgers once and he consistently bought more time with his feet.


Rodgers said Baltimore also used a surprising amount of two-deep safety coverage with man-to-man coverage underneath, leaving the quarterback plenty of room to roam in the middle of the field—especially on his 23-yard scramble that set up a touchdown just before halftime.


Rodgers knows plays like that can demoralize a defense.


“I like to think so,” Rodgers said. “I pride myself on the way I take care of my body, and I put a lot of work in this offseason to get faster and increase my foot speed. I take a lot of pride in being able to extend plays.”


But while Rodgers might be quick on his feet, it’s taking the Northern California native a while to get used to the weather in Green Bay.


“I think this is probably the worst in five years,” Rodgers said. “There was a blizzard a couple years ago, I think, but I don’t remember this much snow falling in this (short) time period.”


Players had to scramble to make a 7:30 a.m. special teams meeting, and a few snowed-in folks needed rides to Lambeau Field. But beyond a few rescheduled weightlifting sessions, McCarthy said the snow didn’t cause a significant disruption.


“That’s the biggest storm that I have seen since I’ve been here,” McCarthy said. “We were able to roll this morning. We’ve had a good day so far.”


McCarthy—who got up at 4 a.m. to clear the snow out of his own driveway and still made it to the office before 6—said he probably won’t take players outside for practice this week. The Packers do have a new heated outdoor practice field this season, allowing them to go outside with fewer concerns about injuries.


“We’ll be indoors tomorrow and Friday,” McCarthy said. “That’s basically because of the wind more than anything.”


Rodgers, meanwhile, has friends staying at his house after missing their flight home.


“Hopefully, they shoveled that driveway today,” Rodgers said.



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