Patrick on Rodgers: "I can't thank him enough what he's done for my career and just recently, encouraging me and helping me."
Lucas Patrick, the backup center of the Packers, has never publicly told this Aaron Rodgers story.
“If we got time,” he said near the end of the open locker room on Tuesday, “there’s a story.”
It goes like this: Shortly before NFL roster cutdown day in 2017, entering Patrick’s second year in the league and after an entire season spent on the practice squad in 2016, Patrick was a bubble player.
Patrick’s mom Liz was visiting Green Bay and they rode together in her Ford Escape out of the Lambeau Field parking lot.
Someone approached the car and knocked on the window, asking Liz to roll it down. It was Rodgers, the star quarterback who had just carried the Packers to the NFC Championship Game the year before, wanting to talk to the mom of a no-name offensive lineman who had never played an NFL snap.
“As a person – not ’12,’ not ‘Aaron Rodgers’ and all this – as one of my teammates, came up and talked to my mom,” Patrick said. “That’s the nicest thing he could’ve ever done, especially after the preseason. There are some guys who are haggling for stuff who may not be on the team the next week. Ever since he’s done that, he’ll forever be good in my book.
“For him to go out of his way to talk to my mom, just to say, ‘Hey.’ I mean, he introduced himself. Of course, we know who you are. I don’t think (those stories) get highlighted enough. That’s the true guy in this locker room.
“That story, I think not many people – I don’t think I’ve ever told that to the media, and I hope it doesn’t get blown up. He is a good guy.”
That day, Rodgers made Patrick feel like he mattered. Since then, Patrick’s boosted confidence helped him make the team in 2017 and in ’18, two years in which he played a combined 26 games with six starts as a versatile guard/center. The interaction between Patrick’s mom and Rodgers matters in 2019, too, especially after Patrick had two wayward snaps against the Cowboys on Sunday while filling in at center for the concussed Corey Linsley in the Packers’ 34-24 win.
After Patrick’s first errant snap, which resulted in an unintentional direct snap to running back Aaron Jones, Rodgers said, “Get the snap to me.” After the second, another unintentional direct snap to Jones, Rodgers was more stern. “Look man, just give me the ball,” the quarterback said. “Go and do your assignment. You’ll be fine.”
Patrick said: “When he says something on the field with those bad snaps, and he’s very firm, I respond better because of the relationship that he’s cultivated. … He could seriously walk up to me and say anything to me on the field, whether it’s negative or positive, and I’ll respond with a, ‘Yes sir, let’s do it. OK, I’ll be better.’ ”
That relationship truly began that August in 2017, but it wasn’t the only time Rodgers has singled out the reserve offensive lineman to make him feel important.
After Sunday’s game, in response to a question about those direct snaps to Jones, Rodgers told his own mini-Lucas Patrick story.
“I’m proud of Lucas. He had a couple of wayward snaps but for him to step in like that and play well and be effective was great,” Rodgers said. “I was just telling him how proud I am of him. We had a great conversation over the lunch table kind of mid-camp.
“I felt like he was struggling a little bit mentally. Since the end of training camp, he’s gained a lot of confidence in the scheme, where he can step in in a tough environment with a really good front and be effective.”
Asked about that training camp lunch sit-down he had with his quarterback, Patrick said his mental struggle resulted because he didn’t think he was playing well during organized team activities or training camp earlier this year.
“Everyone likes to think you’re always the belle of the ball or you’re always having a great day,” Patrick said. ” … I didn’t think it was up to my standards, let alone up to the Packers’ standard. Or Aaron’s – it wasn’t even remotely there.
“And he took time out of his day to talk to me and encourage me. It’s not just one day that turns you into a bad player and it’s not just one day that turns you into a great player. It’s stacking a few days on top and it’s a mentality of approaching it with hard work and determination.”
With Rodgers again in his corner, Patrick said he immediately played better this offseason. He again made the 53-man roster and on Sunday in a hostile road environment played 55 of the Packers’ 74 offensive snaps, and played well, in arguably their biggest win this season.
“Any guy in this locker room, if you feel like 12 has your back, it’s like the whole state has your back,” Patrick said. “Everyone knows he’s special. Everyone knows what he can do on the field. But I don’t think many people truly know what he does off the field to help guys like me.
“I mean, I think if you went around to a bunch of guys in the locker room who are just fighting to stick in this league, he’s probably talked to 99 percent of them and has expressed words of encouragement, ‘Keep sticking it out.’ Or, ‘This is what you need to work on.’
“It’s not always peaches and cream. He’ll shoot you straight. But I appreciate that. Because at this level, we need people who are willing to say, ‘This is where you’re deficient, or this is where you need to get better.’ And he’s not afraid to do that. And it makes this team so much better.”
Patrick says he could’ve cost the Packers a win Sunday, in which they led, 31-3, in the third quarter but only won by 10 points. He credited Jones for being nimble in the backfield, corralling his pair of leaky snaps to prevent fumbles.
After the game, Patrick’s fiancée texted him, alerting him that Rodgers had complimented him in his postgame news conference and congratulated him on receiving praise from one of the best quarterbacks ever.
“Every guy in this locker room can act like (it’s no big deal). It’s still cool to have Aaron Rodgers say something about you,” Patrick said. “That’s still cool to have him say anything positive, let alone what he did. I’ll forever be thankful for that.
“I can’t thank him enough what he’s done for my career and just recently, encouraging me and helping me stay on top of everything.”
Rodgers has received his fair share of criticism in recent years for being a bad locker room presence, namely from former teammates Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings, as well as a host of national talking heads.
Patrick has an idea to dispel that notion once and for all after he retires, though he did a good job of doing so on Tuesday.
“I think when I’m done I’ll maybe write an op-ed or whatever it’s called about that,” he said. “Because the national narrative is extremely wrong from my experience. Like, for him to even say anything that he does to me personally is one thing. To go out in front of the national media in a post-game press conference and say that, I mean, not only does the one-on-one talk build the confidence, but for him to say that, projecting in front of thousands of fans, 31 other teams, all these other people who are tuned into everything he says, that builds me up more than anyone.
“This is the player I know. This is the Aaron I know.”