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Wednesday, December 10, 2008 9:51:40 PM(UTC)
[img_r]http://media.jsonline.com/images/199*173/aaron120908.jpg[/img_r]Green Bay - In a season of firsts for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, his latest game against Houston checked off another:
First classic Green Bay, bitterly cold game.
The temperature at kickoff was 3 degrees with a wind chill index of minus-3, just a few degrees "warmer" than the frigid NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants on Jan. 20. But the wind a few days ago was nothing compared to the nasty game last year at Chicago, where it was 16 degrees and snowing but wind gusts of 40 mph dropped the wind chill to minus-18.
Those games were historic. Sunday was just a good first test. Along with everything else he'll have to overcome as the Packers' next quarterback, Rodgers will have to master the art of quarterbacking in the cold if he wants to be successful.
So although the playoffs seem well out of reach for the Packers, there is value in these finals weeks of the season for a young quarterback to experience playing in rotten weather.
"It's not the last thing I have to prove this year. It's just one," Rodgers said. "I'm always going to be proving different things. Even after I've proven I can play with an injury, even though I've proven I could stay healthy for (13) games so far, now it's going to be, 'Well, he can't win a game in the fourth quarter'&ensp.&ensp.&ensp. or&ensp.&ensp.&ensp. there's always going to be something. This is just another thing I'm going to have to prove I can do."
The Packers get a break by playing their next game Sunday in Jacksonville, but after that they have two potentially freezing games at Chicago's Soldier Field and at Lambeau Field.
Coach Mike McCarthy has said he would like his team to practice outside at least once a week, but in previous seasons under McCarthy, the Packers never worked outside after Thanksgiving. So inside the controlled climate of the Don Hutson Center they go, and that might present the toughest obstacle for Rodgers.
The first-year starter is expected to be a cold-weather quarterback even though he doesn't get to practice in the stuff any more than Jake Delhomme of Carolina or Matt Schaub of Houston.
But Rodgers does have one advantage.
Like his predecessor, Brett Favre, he has larger-than-average hands. They enable Rodgers to hold on to the ball even with a defender tugging on his arm. In the cold, when the ball holds like a frozen Butterball, Rodgers' massive grip helps secure the ball while maintaining a functioning passing game.
Rodgers' hands measured 10 1/8 inches from thumb tip to pinky tip, second-largest of the quarterbacks at the 2005 draft combine and not far behind Favre's hand measurement of 10 3/8 inches.
Drew Brees measured 10 at his combine and Donovan McNabb 10, but a lot of NFL quarterbacks have smaller hand measurements: Jason Campbell 9, Kyle Orton 9, Daunte Culpepper 9, Michael Vick 8, to name a few.
When Rodgers holds the ball, his ring finger reaches the second-to-last lace, his pinky rests near the bottom and his pointer is at the top, with the thumb wrapping around almost half the ball.
With a solid grip, his youth and his mobility, Rodgers has the physical weapons to withstand the worst of what Wisconsin weather wants to throw his way.
But he has also developed cold-weather strategies in his fourth year in Green Bay. Although it would seem logical for Rodgers to tighten his grip on the ball in the cold, he says the opposite is true. He loosens up.
"It's kind of like throwing in wet weather, because you need to loosen your grip up ever so slightly," Rodgers said. "Throwing a wet ball, if you squeeze it, it's not going to come out in a spiral, so you loosen your grip up just a little bit. The same thing with a cold ball. It's going to be a little bit slicker. You have to loosen your grip a little bit, which takes off just a little bit of velocity. But if you don't loosen it up then the ball could come out all over the place. Especially in the wind, too, you've got to throw spirals."
When Rodgers was the backup the previous three seasons, he would wait as long as possible during games before putting on a jacket, trying to get his body and his brain used to being cold.
"The cold, a lot of it is in your mind," Rodgers said. "It's just like pain. How much can you (tolerate)?"
The most important task for Rodgers is to keep his hands warm. His jersey has a different, wool-like lining, he said, that's even better than a hot pack for keeping the hands warm.
"You've got to keep your hands warm so you don't lose that gripability," Rodgers said. "Even if your grip is not that strong, if you lose that grip on the ball it will slip out of your hands. The warmth keeps the dexterity in your fingers as well."
Friday, December 12, 2008 5:16:26 PM(UTC)
We should lock him in a freezer so he gets used to it.
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