The Green Bay Packers got their first view of their 2021 draft class this past weekend as they held their first rookie minicamp. One of the players who made the biggest impressions on the coaching staff was wide receiver Amari Rodgers, the team’s third-round pick out of the Clemson.
The 5’10”, 210-pound rookie has a different body type than the rest of the receivers on the roster, nearly all of whom are at least six feet tall. Rodgers figures to start off a slot receiver and to run gadget plays like the jet sweep and end around like Tyler Ervin did last year as the team integrates him into the offense.
He also returned punts at minicamp, a position he figures to compete for in training camp this year against several other candidates.
Head coach Matt LaFleur was impressed with what Rodgers showed him this past weekend. “He’s a well-built kid,” LaFleur told reporters. “He looks like a grown man. He’s got that big, running back-thick frame. Then you watch him run routes and he doesn’t move like most traditional running backs. So, we’re really excited about just the versatility he could potentially bring to our offense and also his contribution on special teams.”
LaFleur also liked the desire he saw from Rodgers. “He seems to be a very sharp guy who’s very hungry and that’s always an important part of the process. Got a lot of faith in Jason Vrabel and Ruvell Martin to get him caught up to the veterans in short order.”
For his part, Amari Rodgers was thrilled to be in Green Bay and starting his NFL journey with the Packers. He explained to reporters after practice why he chose to wear the number eight in the NFL after wearing three in college. The Packers have retired the number three for Hall of Famer Tony Canadeo.
“You know, eight is just a three but you close it in,” Rodgers said. “Everything came full circle, so that’s really how I saw it. Everything coming full circle, all the work I put in came full circle. Now I’m here achieving my dream. That’s what that ‘8’ symbolizes to me.”
In addition to embracing his number, the Clemson alum is starting to get comfortable playing at the next level. “Going out in front of coaches for the first time you’re going to be a little bit nervous,” Rodgers admitted. “But once I got a couple routes in, caught a couple balls, it’s just me doing what I’ve been doing my whole life.”
Although he’s not tall, Rodgers has a strong, thick body and he was one of the better receivers at running after the catch in college football last season. He hopes to be able to continue that in the NFL. That skill should allow the coaching staff to use Rodgers in a large variety of roles. That means he has a lot to learn when it comes to the Packers playbook.
At this point, the rookie is looking forward to the challenge of playing in the best football league in the world. “I’m ready for it,” said Rodgers. “I’m just going to prepare myself, get my body in shape, to take on that role. I know they’re looking at me in a lot of positions, so I just got to be ready for it. I’m just going to embrace it, attack it head-on.”
Former Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb has been a mentor to Rodgers and he was in touch with the rookie after he was drafted by his former team. When asked what advice Cobb gave him, Rodgers responded, “He told me I have no choice but to lock in and get better at football. You know there’s not much to do in Green Bay. So, he said that’s a great thing because there’s not too many distractions and I can lock in on my playbook and sharpen my skillset so I can just go out there and ball out.”
In practice, Rodgers made some big plays. The highlight was a long pass from quarterback Chad Kelly on Friday afternoon, beating fellow rookie and fifth round pick Shemar Jean-Charles on a deep sideline pattern.
Rodgers admitted he will have some adjustments to the pro game. “Probably just the playing speed,” he replied when asked what his biggest adjustment would be. “Everybody in the league is fast, the cornerbacks, the safeties, the linebackers, everybody is fast and has good pursuit to the ball. So just learning once I get the ball in my hands to get vertical…so just learn to play fast, catch up to the game speed.”
Now that he’s at the beginning of his NFL journey, Rodgers described what it felt like to put on his Packers helmet and jersey for the first time in practice. “It was a dream come true,” he said. “That’s what I’ve dreamed of my whole life, strapping up for an NFL football team and to be doing it for the Packers is even more of a dream.”
LaFleur and Packers fans everywhere hope that Rodgers’ dream becomes opposing cornerbacks’ nightmares once the season starts in September.
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