GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The opening week of Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love’s first season as a starter just got a bit more challenging.
Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs didn’t practice Wednesday because of hamstring injuries, raising the possibility the Packers might not have either of their top two receivers Sunday at Chicago. Packers coach Matt LaFleur wasn’t offering any clues as to their potential availability.
“Like we always say, we’ll give them the whole week and we’ll see where they’re at,” LaFleur said.
Consider that one more obstacle Love is facing as he prepares for the task of replacing four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was traded to the New York Jets in the offseason. Love, a 2020 first-round pick from Utah State, made his only previous career start during a 2021 loss at Kansas City when a positive COVID-19 test sidelined Rodgers.
Rodgers dominated the Bears perhaps more than any other opponent during his 18 seasons in Green Bay, enabling the Packers to turn the NFL’s oldest rivalry into a one-sided affair. Rodgers’ departure offers the Bears a chance to change the momentum of a series in which they've lost eight straight.
Love wants to make sure it doesn’t happen. He’s eager to put his own stamp on this series.
“You kind of get here and you get a feel for the rivalry and just how tough it is,” Love said.
The performances of Rodgers and Brett Favre before him enabled the Packers to take control of a rivalry in which the Bears had long held the upper hand. The Packers now lead the series 105-95-6, including playoff matchups.
Green Bay went 22-10 against the Bears in the games Favre started from 1992-2007. Rodgers fared even better against them.
Rodgers’ mastery of the Bears was evident long before that memorable moment in 2021, when cameras caught him shouting “I own you” and “I still own you” at the Soldier Field crowd after running for a fourth-quarter touchdown in a 24-14 Packers victory.
Green Bay had a 25-5 record against the Bears in Rodgers’ starts, and one of those losses came after an injury on the Packers’ opening series knocked him out of the game. Rodgers has thrown 64 touchdown passes with just 10 interceptions against them. The Bears have allowed more touchdown passes to Rodgers than any other player in NFL history.
The Bears won’t have to worry about Rodgers this time. They instead must deal with the uncertainty that comes from facing a quarterback with so little playing experience.
“There’s not too much film on him, so we’ve just got to go out there and play our game,” Bears safety Eddie Jackson said of Love. “Feel like he wants to get off on a quick game, get some completions, get his confidence going early.”
Although Watson and Doubs are only entering their second seasons, they’re the Packers’ most proven wideouts following the offseason departures of Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, who are now Rodgers’ Jets teammates.
The Packers also don’t have much experience at tight end, where rookie second-round pick Luke Musgrave is expected to start. The two tight ends who played the most snaps for the Packers last season — Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis — have both joined the Bears.
“It is what it is,” LaFleur said. “But you know, we’re excited. We’ve got a plan in place and we’ll play the guys that are available and ready to go. The one thing about this league is nobody cares. You’ve got to find a way to get it done, and I think our guys have taken that mindset no matter who’s out there. The expectations remain the same and that is to go out there and play winning football.”
The Packers believe Love’s presence gives them a chance to keep winning in the post-Rodgers era, even with all their inexperience.
Veteran running back Aaron Jones noted a conversation he recently had with assistant quarterbacks coach Connor Lewis. The two of them were talking about Love’s ability to avoid getting rattled. Jones noted how Lewis marveled at the way Love maintained his poise no matter how much the coach tried to get under his skin.
“Although he may be a little nervous, he’s calm, cool and collected,” Jones said. “He’s more than ready, and we’re ready to help him.”
Love looks forward to this long-awaited opportunity.
“I’m excited for it,” Love said. “It’s always exciting to open the season and get the first game rolling. For an NFC opponent, a rivalry game, it’ll be very exciting, playing there in their stadium. I’m sure there will be a packed house. Everybody will be excited for Week 1. Put on a show.”
AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.
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Steve Megargee, The Associated Press