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Rodgers capably takes on the mantle of Packers lore

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GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- There is no shadow in Packers quarterback lore now except for the one being cast by Aaron Rodgers. He's got the Lombardi Trophy, his champion's belt and his own mantle in franchise history.

He's also got plenty of time to add to his collection, and he's making it clear during training camp that he's just getting started.

"He's coming out with the same approach," wide receiver Greg Jennings said. "He's always been one to hold guys accountable, especially the skill guys. We're the ones he's counting on. He does the same with the offensive line. He holds everyone accountable. We understand what he brings to the table. We also hold him accountable.

"His play has put him in a category where we expect nothing less but greatness. We've all set a higher standard. That's what we have to do to chase success."

While much of what the Packers say about not becoming intoxicated on the Super Bowl championship and staying focused and being the hunters not the hunted is sincere; it's also what most teams trying to repeat say. No team says, "This Super Bowl title was enough. I'm good just finishing out the regular season for the next few years."

There are some things in play with these Packers that don't make the preseason hype and hyperbole so cliché.

This is a young team that won a championship but wasn't overly dominant until it got hot late in the season. There is definitely room to be better. Remember, it took losses by the Giants and Buccaneers and key late-season wins by Green Bay for the Packers to claim the final wild card spot in the NFC.

There also were numerous key players who were injured but now return: safety Morgan Burnett, running back Ryan Grant, tight end Jermichael Finley. Though these players got their rings, they have an edge about them because they weren't on the field helping the Packers win the Super Bowl. Instead, the players competing to retain the spots vacated by the injured players have staked that claim.

"I'm hungry, so hungry," Finley said. "It's crazy. I can't wait to get on the field and get some work done."

Finley is one of the main factors in Green Bay's chase for a second straight title. The ultra-talented tight end is fast, can catch, and is a matchup advantage. With him being able to line up in the standard spot, in the slot or flanked wide, Rodgers can find the soft spot in the defense pretty much by pre-snap alignment.

From there, Finley can spring free or draw attention off the Packers abundance of other targets, which include Donald Driver, Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and rookie wideout Randall Cobb. Add the return of a highly motivated Grant in the backfield with second-year man James Starks and rookie tailback Alex Green, and there are more options than last season.

"There aren't many tight ends that can run the field and catch the ball," Finley said, speaking of his skill set. "It's going to be good to see how the ball will get around. Greg Jennings, Driver, James Jones and Jordy can play with a speed tight end. It's going to be nice seeing that ball coming from No. 12. He is the best quarterback in the NFL right now."

There it is again. Rodgers is the best in the game right now. That's debatable, but his teammates think so. When players have that faith in their quarterback, half the battle is won. Think the Dolphins or Broncos or Bengals feel as secure with their quarterbacks as Green Bay?

Rodgers doesn't speak much of his game. He lets his arm, legs and victories handle that. Instead, he sends the love back at his teammates.

"We're fortunate to have a group that's a little more unselfish than most," he said of all his skill position teammates.

Rodgers said he doesn't expect a dropoff in overall production, and why should he?

The offensive line is still working itself into form, especially with rookie Derek Sherrod and veteran T.J. Lang battling for the starting guard spot vacated with the departure of Daryn Colledge. However, it's not like the line is a weakness.

On NFL Network:
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The defense could be the best it's been with another season under defensive coordinator Dom Capers. That's frightening. Cornerback Charles Woodson said he was worried that the lockout could have stunted the communication flow between players that is so crucial to how Capers runs his defense.

But on the first day of practice, it was if they hadn't missed a day, he said.

"No one could believe it, even the coaches," Woodson said. "At all levels, we were calling out signals, assignments. It was incredible."

The offense had to step up as a result -- and it has. The practice battles were a steady diet of conversation with receivers talking about how hard it is to get open against Woodson and Tramon Williams and Nick Collins and Sam Shields. Those defensive backs said regardless of the scheme, some receiver finds his way into daylight -- and Rodgers finds that receiver.

And the rest of the team marvels.

"I've watched him grow since he first got here in '05," Driver said of Rodgers. "To see how he's developed into that true all-around best quarterback in the game, you've got to tip your hat to him. We give him credit for being the best quarterback in today's game."

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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