Could rookie Rodgers do what Finley did?

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
2:47
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Richard Rodgers stood in the Green Bay Packers' locker room on Tuesday with his iPad clutched in his left hand.

He was headed to a meeting to watch film of that day's organized team activity with his position coach, Jerry Fontenot, and the rest of the tight ends.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
Mike Roemer/AP PhotoCoach Mike McCarthy says rookie tight end Richard Rodgers is "off to a very good start" in Packers' organized team activities.
But when that meeting was over, he planned to power on his team-issued tablet and watch more film -- not of anything he has done since the Packers picked him in the third round of last month's draft, but of what the tight end is supposed to look like in the Packers' offense.

To do that, he planned to roll video of plays from last season before tight end Jermichael Finley sustained his season-ending (and possibly career-ending) neck injury.

"He makes plays, catches the ball, makes moves in space and that's really what you want to do as a tight end," Rodgers said of Finley. "You want to get the ball and make plays and break tackles, and that's exactly what he does."

Finley's uncertain future -- he remains available on the free-agent market while teams try to figure out whether it is safe for him to play football game -- casts a shadow over the Packers. His nameplate still sits atop his locker at Lambeau Field, although the locker itself is empty.

For now, Rodgers is among seven tight ends on the roster. Combined, they have four career touchdown catches, or 16 fewer than Finley (who has 13 in his 2 1/2 seasons).

"I'm not really worried about what's going on over there," Rodgers said as he glanced toward Finley's locker. "I just try to focus on what I'm doing and learning my stuff and not making mental errors on the field."

So far, Rodgers has done that perhaps better than any of the rookies in the Packers' draft class. In Tuesday's OTA, he made one of the most memorable plays of OTAs when he snagged a one-handed catch on a deep ball that fluttered, perhaps because it was slightly tipped, from backup quarterback Scott Tolzien.

It was an example of what the Packers saw from the 6-foot-4, 257-pound Rodgers last season at Cal, when he played receiver after the Bears' new coaching staff removed the traditional tight end from the offense.

"I just think he's a natural in space," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I'm excited to see him when we get into the in-line work into training camp, but as far as all of the movement, playing in space, picking up the scheme, I think Richard's off to a very good start."

Much like Finley, there are questions about Rodgers' blocking that he hopes to answer when the pads go on in training camp.

But so far, it appears those who thought the Packers reached for Rodgers at No. 98 overall might have been wrong.

"He's made a lot of plays," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after Tuesday's practice. "Matt [Flynn] and I were just talking about it, how when we made the pick some of the so-called experts on the draft channel said he was a late sixth-round pick, [where] they had him as far as a grade, which is pretty laughable when you watch the talent he's got and the ability, especially some of the plays he made today.

“Again, it's helmet and shorts, but you have to be excited about his body type and the hands. He's made some incredible catches, makes it look easy. I think he's going to push for some playing time if he can transfer what he's done in the spring now to the fall and have the potential to be an impact player.”

Whether it’s Rodgers or another tight end (perhaps Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick or rookie Colt Lyerla) the Packers need more from the position than what they got after Finley's injury.

When asked whether he can give the Packers that, young Rodgers said: "I hope so."

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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