GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers has made no secret of his desire to someday host Saturday Night Live. The Green Bay Packers quarterback is a longtime fan – he has plenty of Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts at the ready – and he would love nothing more than to put his sketch comedy acting chops to the test on the iconic NBC show.
So perhaps his advertising shoot for State Farm on Saturday in Milwaukee, which according to multiple sources included characters from one of the show’s most recognizable skits, will prove to be good preparation for him to someday join the “Not Ready For Prime Time Players."
Meanwhile, outside the actors’ studio and on the football field, the Packers can only hope that Rodgers’ cameo appearances in this preseason do the same for their quarterback’s preparation for the real thing, starting with the team’s Sept. 8 regular-season opener in San Francisco.
For while coach Mike McCarthy, quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo and Rodgers himself were mum on whether he’ll even suit up for Thursday night’s preseason finale at Kansas City, Rodgers is guaranteed of entering the regular season with the fewest exhibition snaps and offensive possessions since he became the team’s starting quarterback in 2008. He would have to play deep into the game to get his snap count up to match the previous five years, and the Packers simply aren’t going to risk their franchise quarterback like that.
“We’re going to make sure Aaron’s ready,” McAdoo said after practice Monday, when Rodgers ran the scout-team offense along with a host of other starters, indicating he may not play at all against the Chiefs. “We have a plan for it.”
So far this preseason, Rodgers has played 45 snaps in five offensive series. He’s completed 17 of 24 passes (70.8 percent) for 237 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, one sack and a passer rating of 102.3. In last week’s loss to Seattle in the third preseason game, which is traditionally when the starters play the longest, Rodgers played only one series and 10 snaps. For comparison, he played six possessions and 41 snaps in the Packers’ third preseason game last year at Cincinnati.
McCarthy wouldn’t say whether Rodgers will play only one series or not at all against the Chiefs – “Not to avoid the question, (but) it’s important to get the work tomorrow before we set on exactly who will play,” he said – but McCarthy did say he believes Rodgers is prepared to face the 49ers if he doesn’t take another snap in a game.
“I’d say Aaron’s in his game ready shape. He’s been very sharp,” McCarthy said. “I feel very confident that Aaron’s ready to go.”
When Rodgers ascended to the starting job in 2008 after three years behind Brett Favre, he played 16 series and 93 snaps in four preseason games. In the preseason finale against Tennessee that year, he played just one snap, throwing a 68-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings on the opening play.
The past four years, his snap counts have been almost the same every year – 77 in 13 series 2009, 78 in 13 series 2010, 75 in 12 series in 2011 and 79 in 14 series last summer – even though McCarthy has gone a variety of ways in the finale of late. Rodgers didn’t play at all in the 2010 finale against the Chiefs; he played one series each against them in 2011 (eight snaps) and played two series in 2012 (seven snaps, including three straight handoffs in the second series).
“What did Mike say? He thinks I’m ready for the season opener? Then I’m ready to play,” Rodgers replied when asked if he felt he needed to play Thursday night. “It’s up to Mike. If Mike wants to get us another drive or two or three, then we’ll do it. We’ve taken a couple reps this week working on Kansas City stuff. It’s up to him.”
Rodgers seemed to thoroughly enjoy working on the look team in practice Monday, reprising his role from his time as a backup, and he did get some quality work in at the No. 1 defense’s expense. Not only did he go over the top of defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ group for a 40-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, but he also made a few adjustments at the line of scrimmage – a no-no when you’re supposed to be running the upcoming opponents’ plays as diagrammed on a card – on a touchdown throw to Randall Cobb and another play.
“I love it. That’s something I really enjoyed doing for three years,” Rodgers said. “I kind of broke the rules a little bit today out of spite for Dom doing some what I like to call ‘scripting for success’ where he scripts a defense that more often than not gets a stop of whatever play is associated with that. So I had to go outside the rules a little bit.
“There was a run play I checked to a pass, and then you’re not supposed to change any of the routes and the one I hit Randall for a touchdown on I wanted to work on that route with Randall since we haven’t had a lot of reps together, so I kind of changed that one, too.”
All kidding aside, with Cobb (biceps) and Nelson (knee) having each missed the first three preseason games with their injuries, Rodgers said working with them on the scout team was valuable because they’ve been out so long.
“It’s important for us to find some time to get some reps in. We’ve (only) been throwing on the side a little bit,” Rodgers explained. “That’s going to be our opportunities before the season starts. We’re going to have to find that connection here in the next couple of week.”
McCarthy said he does plan on playing Nelson and Cobb against the Chiefs, although they could be working with backup Vince Young instead of Rodgers. If that’s the case, Rodgers said his focus for the last practice of training camp on Tuesday is to make sure he pushes himself to keep his conditioning up.
“When you go from playing a total of probably in the 40s as far as plays, to playing 70-plus plays a game, you just have to make sure you’re in shape,” Rodgers said. “For me this week, it’s been doing all the defensive reps (when the offense is in jogthrough at the start of practice) and throwing on the side and doing the scout team reps. I’m pretty spent after a practice like today. It’s probably the same intensity if not more than me taking all the reps in the first team during a normal season practice. So I’m doing some stuff on the side to make sure I’m ready to go.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.