WATFORD – Aaron Rodgers may need to have a little chat with Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur about the game plan for the Packers’ first game in London.
After arriving in the British capital on an overnight flight, LaFleur was quick to tout the importance of the run game on Sunday against the New York Giants, who feature the best rushing attack in the NFL.
But the British fans have waited a long time to see Rodgers’ big arm in action, with the Packers the last of the NFL’s 32 teams to play in London.
So is the quarterback feeling any added incentive to put on a show by airing it out?
“Of course,” Rodgers said. “Matt’s kind of in a grumpy mood right now. When he gets a little bit of rest, he’ll be in a better mood. We’ll talk about airing it out a bit more.”
While that comment was clearly tongue-in-cheek, there’s no doubt that Rodgers and the Packers will be the main attraction at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Giants played in the very first NFL regular-season game in London at 2007 and also visited in 2016.
But as LaFleur pointed out, this might be a run-heavy game on both sides. Saquon Barkley is leading the league in rushing yards, while the Packers’ offense has largely been built around running back duo Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon this season.
“Our backs are two of our best players, so we’ve got to get those guys involved,” LaFleur said after arriving at the team’s luxury hotel, located in the countryside northwest of London. “If you look at New York’s defense situationally, they’re one of the best in ball. Both in the red zone and on third down. So the running game can alleviate just some of the stress that gets put on you in those situations if you’re not running the ball effectively.”
Rodgers has yet to score a rushing touchdown this season, but was asked whether he plans to replicate the Lambeau Leap with a “London Leap” on Sunday if he does manage to get into the end zone.
“I might have to tag somebody in for me. I’m getting a little old for that,” the 38-year-old Rodgers said. “But I’ve got to see the wall, I don’t know how high the wall is. If it’s above maybe five feet, I’ll probably let one of the linemen go.”
The Packers and Giants both arrived on Friday morning, meaning they only have two days to get used to the jet lag and time difference. Rodgers, whose habit of traveling to different countries in the offseason has been well documented, said he would have loved to come out earlier.
“A lot of us who love to travel were kind of hoping for a Monday takeoff so we could enjoy some food and some culture and maybe a Premier League game,” Rodgers said. “But either way, we’re excited to be here. And this is not just a normal road trip even though the coaches speak is always, ‘Hey, we’re here to win a game, yada yada yada.’ This is definitely more special. … This is one of those games I think at the end of your career when you think back on, it’s going to be a special moment to be able to play in front of the fans here.”
Rodgers was planning to take in the U.S. women’s soccer team’s game against England at Wembley Stadium on Friday but said he will probably opt to stay at the hotel and “just relax a little bit.”
Even a seasoned traveler like Rodgers, though, didn’t get all of his preparations right when it comes to getting some sleep on the overnight flight to England.
“I wore the wrong color socks,” Rodgers said. “I wore black socks. And in the dark, and in a bed made for probably a six-foot person — I’m slightly above that — I got my feet hit a couple of times.”
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