R-E-L-A-X? Not at practice, not this year

Already full of mid-season pith and vinegar, Aaron Rodgers served notice that he will not suffer lightly the indifference of unmotivated teammates this time around.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback held nothing back in his view of the effort put forth by some of the practice squad wide receivers last week.

“One of the worst carded sessions we’ve had,” he said of the offending scout team slough-offs.

Rodgers would clarify those admonitions a bit later on, but his early calling-out was a rousing start to a Packers journey that they hope will culminate on Feb. 3 in Atlanta.

The bells and whistles of this 2018 season include new rules on how not to tackle, new rules on how not to be tackled, and new rules on where to stand and where to sit.

In the first exhibition game, there were mostly whistles.

In their preseason-opening win over Tennessee, the Packers combined with the Titans for 24 penalties – the most for a game involving the Pack since 2002.

How much of that sloppiness can be attributed to the early stage of the season is unclear. More in focus was the fact that the Packers threw a shutout in their 31-17 victory – meaning no player suffered a season-ending injury in their first of four meaningless exhibitions.

Preseason games are said to be a great learning instrument, a time to weed out the chaff, to determine who’s all-in for a title run and who’s capable of making it happen.

Preseason games are also great for getting players injured. In an exhibition game three years ago at Pittsburgh — the Packers’ opponent tonight at Lambeau Field — now-departed wide receiver Jordy Nelson went down for the season with a knee injury that stands as one of the team’s most damaging preseason casualties ever.

The overkill of four preseason games is an issue that has already been flogged to dead-horse proportions, but one that needs to be hammered on until the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2020.

Four are too many. The preseason in its current form is antithetical to what the league purports to be trying to do, i.e., stem the tide of injuries and give fans the best product possible. Preseason games do not provide the best product. They’re boring. As players keep getting stronger and faster in an already-violent game, injuries are increasingly more inevitable.

Concussions last year were up 13.5 percent from the 2016 NFL season, despite rules put in place specifically to reduce them. Other garden-variety football injuries have also risen, as witnessed by a cursory glance over any team’s injury report. A partial list of the 11 Packers already dinged up this preseason includes Randall Cobb (ankle), Kevin King (shoulder), Jaire Alexander (groin), Aaron Jones (hamstring), David Bakhtiari (ankle), Mike Daniels (quadriceps), Jimmy Graham (knee) and Muhammad Wilkerson (groin).

As for Rodgers’ outburst, it can be more easily understood given that he’s 34 and believes the Packers were good enough to have won more than one Super Bowl throughout his 10-year reign as a starter. The little things count, and what you do in practice, you’ll do in a game.

“I’m getting older and grumpier,” Rodgers said. “I’ve been at this a long time. I’m tired, too. We’re all a little tired.”

Tired of falling short, anyway.

On a brighter note, Rodgers was impressed with several of his newer receivers. Geronimo Allison, DeAngelo Yancey and Jake Kumerow all got a thumbs-up from No. 12.

In fact, if there is a sure thing among the bubble players hoping to make the 53-man roster, it may be Kumerow. He’s made several nice plays to get the attention of Rodgers, whose opinion on the matter probably counts for something along the way.

In qualifying his earlier reprimand of the scout team, Rodgers explained that it was only tough love and not a personal dig.

“It’s not a popularity contest,” he said. “Obviously, as a human you like being liked and appreciated, but I’m trying to win games.”

He meant real games.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@wolfrivermedia.com.