Some observers may have scratched their head when the Green Bay Packers made California tight end Richard Rodgers their third round draft choice.
It's difficult to blame them. After all, Rodgers declared for the draft as an underclassman coming off a junior season in which he scored a single touchdown and Cal went just 1-11.
In the short amount of time Rodgers has been in Green Bay, however, he's starting to show why the Packers made him a Top 100 selection in the draft (98th overall). Just as the Packers quarterback.
"When we made the pick, some of these so-called experts on the draft channel said that he was a late sixth-round pick, I think they had him as far as a grade, which is pretty laughable when you watch the talent that he's got and the ability, especially with some of the plays he made today," said Aaron Rodgers, no relation.
The Packers are currently in the final week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the end of a month-long crash course in the team's schemes and systems for the rookies.
Tuesday was the final day of OTAs open to the public and media, the day Rodgers referenced when his new tight end made so many plays on the practice field.
"I just try to do what I can out there, and that's a great compliment from him, and I'm just trying to do my part and help the team win," said Richard Rodgers.
One more week remains as part of the Packers' offseason program, the mandatory minicamp held next week, June 17 to 19: the final opportunity for Rodgers to learn the offense in a team environment before training camp begins in late July and the learning curve only gets steeper.
As it stands now in June, the Packers are practicing sans pads, so there's only so much Rodgers can prove. There's no contact, so it's difficult for him to show his mettle in the blocking department.
But for his part, Rodgers is making the most of the opportunities presented to him.
"He had a big-time catch today, and I just think he's a natural in space," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "I'm excited to see him when we get to the in-line work in training camp. But as far as all the movement, playing in space, picking up the scheme, Richard's off to a very good start."
Through mere circumstance, Rodgers has found himself in a pretty good position throughout the offseason in Green Bay.
The future of former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is still in doubt due to his injury situation. Currently, he's still a free agent and may or may not be a member of the Packers in 2014.
Although Andrew Quarless re-signed with Green Bay in the offseason, he has yet to take part in a practice open to the public. Presumably, the coaching staff is bringing him along slowly as they keep in mind the severe knee injury he suffered with multiple torn ligaments in 2011.
And for the first two weeks OTAs, Brandon Bostick wasn't taking part in the public practices either as he recovered from surgery on his foot.
For the majority of the offseason program, Ryan Taylor and Jake Stoneburner were the only healthy veterans taking part in practice, leaving plenty of opportunities for rookies like Rodgers and Colt Lyerla.
In the months of May and June Rodgers is impressing with his athleticism and a pair of hands that have been hailed as one of his biggest strengths.
It will be different during training camp when he's lining up in a three-point stance on the line scrimmage across from the likes of Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews, but Rodgers will cross that bridge when it arrives.
"That's probably the biggest part is just getting the playbook down and learning where you're supposed to be at certain times with the coverages," said Rodgers.
His quarterback shares a similar sentiment.
"Again, it's helmets and shorts, but you have to be excited about his body type and the hands," said Aaron Rodgers. "He's made some incredible catches, makes it look easy.
"I think he's really 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."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Packers tight end Richard Rodgers by Brian Carriveau.
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