By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Ever since emerging from starter-in-waiting to future Hall of Fame quarterback, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers has noticed an evolution of his position.
Young quarterbacks strive for the standard he has set since taking over for Hall of Famer Brett Favre. They’re developed with greater detail at a young age and are coached more thoroughly. The awareness each quarterback brings to the table is enhanced. Rodgers sees the readiness reveal itself when quarterbacks get their chance.
Rodgers took a rare path to his position, waiting three years behind Favre before getting his shot as the Packers’ starter. The Bears don’t have a Hall of Fame talent under center now — Mike Glennon has struggled in his first three games with Chicago — but like the Packers then, they hope their quarterback of the future is waiting in the wings in rookie Mitchell Trubisky.
Rodgers knows the chance for growth is important for Trubisky, just like it was him.
“It was just about learning, talking some more time, getting my body in great shape,” Rodgers said Tuesday on a teleconference. “I was very thankful for the opportunity, now as I look back, to grow, but I was never bitter in the moment. I was always excited about every day of practice and excited about going through my preparation during the week to try to give maybe one little nugget to Brett during the week that might help him play better on Sunday.
“There’s a lot of growth that can happen sitting on the bench. You can really gain in confidence every single day of practice. You can kind of come along at your own speed. You’re obviously not dealing with the pressure every week of having to perform, which is a real thing. You kind of come along and learn the league, learn how to be a professional and learn how to take care of your body, and know at some point you’re going to get an opportunity, like (Trubisky) obviously is. When he does get the opportunity, be ready to make of the most of it.”
Waiting three years as Rodgers did isn’t typical, but a talent like Favre isn’t typical either. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was placed in a different position, thrust into the starting role in just his third game as a rookie after Tommy Maddox suffered an injury. Like Trubisky, he entered training camp as the third-stringer before working into the role of backup.
“I mean, yeah, you want to get out there, but you also understand that this is a different ballgame than college,” Roethlisberger said last week. “Of course, you want to play. But you don’t want to just get thrown in not ready to go. You’re OK being patient trying to learn the offense because you don’t want to get out there and look bad or let your teammates down.
“So you kind of want to say, ‘All right, I want to learn this offense to the best of my ability. I want to know exactly what I’m doing on this look, this play, this check. So that when I am called, I am as prepared as I can be, I don’t let guys down.’”
Rodgers is in agreement with Roethlisberger’s assessment.
“Well, a lot of it’s mental,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, getting picked in the first round, the physical aspects were there. They obviously are with Mitch. Had a good preseason, made a lot of plays, ran around, did some good things from what I saw. But mentally, it takes a while to learn the offense, and more importantly, start to learn defenses and put together fronts with pressures and coverages and start to see some different things on film. Obviously, the game is a little different preseason to regular season.”
For Rodgers, experience came not only working with Favre but also lining up with the scout team offense and facing a legend like Charles Woodson at cornerback.
Rodgers knows well the value that was gained working with the practice squad and trying to make plays as a young quarterback facing a first-team defense. Just because Trubisky isn’t the starter just yet, it doesn’t mean he’s missing an opportunity.
“It was the best thing that happened to me,” Rodgers said. “Being able to sit for three years and learn behind a Hall of Famer, learn the game, get myself in good shape, and get ready to play in Year 4. But whatever situation you’re in kind of dictates your timeline. Obviously, at some point, (Trubisky is) going to be the guy and get an opportunity.”