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Aaron Rodgers says criticism of Green Bay Packers' young WRs not personal

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-08-14 10:10:02

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers said he was not sending a message last week when he referred to practice as "piss poor," but if some members of the Green Bay Packers were bothered by it, well, now it sounds like Rodgers has a message for them.

"I hope we're not that soft," Rodgers said Monday. "I hope we can hear comments or read comments and not get offended by things. It's a professional environment; it's not a personal environment. The things I'm saying, I don't have some vendetta against any player. I care about winning, No. 1, and I'm going to say and do the things that I feel like can advance us. It's going to be tough at some points. It's not a popularity contest all the time. Obviously, as a human, you like being liked and appreciated, but I'm trying to win games because that's my job."

It was after a sloppy practice last week, one that ended with Rodgers flinging the ball at some tackling dummies in frustration, that he criticized the young receivers -- without naming any names -- for their effort while running the scout team. Rodgers was working with them on the scout team last week because he wasn't going to play in the preseason opener against Tennessee.

In that preseason opener, a couple of the Packers' rookie receivers stood out: fifth-round pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling with five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown and sixth-rounder Equanimeous St. Brown with four catches for 61 yards. Fourth-round pick J'Mon Moore had a tougher debut with a pair of dropped passes.

After the game, Valdes-Scantling said: "You know, when the leader says you've got to pick it up, that's what you do. He's one of the greatest to ever do it, so whatever he says, we have to go out and do it."

Rodgers, however, said he doesn't think it was because of what he said.

"Again, I don't feel like when you make a statement like that that there needs to be some big response or feelings hurt or offense that somebody takes with it," Rodgers said. "If they do, they're taking it the wrong way because this is a professional environment. Like I said, I'm doing things that I feel like are in the best interest of the team from a leadership standpoint, and if no one else is going to stand up and criticize a bad practice, then maybe I need to be the one to do it. So I did it.

"I talked about the carded period that we had. The guys played well in the game, made some plays. It's been a good week of practice, I think. It's been hot, but the guys have been competing and making plays. I don't think that's a response to anything I've said. Now maybe it is for a couple of them, but it shouldn't be. You get to this league, and to stick around, you've got to be self-motivated. So as a leader, you try to inspire, but the motivation to change and to improve has got to come from within."

It appears that Rodgers will make his preseason debut on Thursday against the Steelers because he was off scout-team duty Monday. Last year, he played one series in Week 2 of the preseason (and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett at the end of a 15-play drive) and two series in Week 3.

That left tackle David Bakhtiari returned to practice Sunday, just eight days after he sprained his left ankle, could also aid in the protection of Rodgers in his preseason work.

"I think he knows I'm playing, so he wants to be out there with me," Rodgers said.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga also has begun working into 11-on-11 periods in his return from last year's ACL surgery, so Rodgers could have his full offensive line intact.

Rodgers said it was important to him to play at Lambeau Field, something he hasn't done since Week 4 of last season against the Bears. He broke his collarbone in Week 6 at Minnesota, and his only game back last season was at Carolina in Week 15. The Packers' final two preseason games are on the road: at Oakland and at Kansas City.

"I haven't played at home for a long time," Rodgers said. "So it will be nice to get out on Lambeau. And then we'll see about Week 3 and 4, but you're always working on things, whether it's practice or preseason game. It's just trying to get the timing down with the guys, and the speed is obviously a little faster at times in practice -- not always. The scheme is not always extremely difficult, so it's more about making sure you're seeing things the right way. Like I said, it's not a ton of preparation in the same way it would be for a regular-season game. But I think there's still things to be gained even for a veteran player in the preseason."

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