Most weeks it would be a little odd for Panthers coach Ron Rivera to quiz special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers about the opponent’s tight end.
But it makes sense this week, even if the conversation might be a little awkward.
Rodgers knows Green Bay’s rookie tight end well: It’s his son.
Rodgers will join Richard Rodgers II with several family members for dinner at his son’s place Saturday night. The two will visit briefly at Lambeau Field on Sunday morning, and might even toss the football.
Then they’ll head to respective sidelines and try to beat the other, just like they did on the ping pong table that was packed into the moving trucks every time Rodgers Sr. would get another coaching job while his children were growing up.
“We’ll let the chips fall where they may,” Rodgers Sr. said. “Family can root for him as long as we win the game.”
The younger Rodgers, who is 6-4 and 257 pounds, is taller than his father, a safety at Cal and in the Arena League who is nicknamed “Rock” for his muscular build.
Rodgers Sr. was a teammate of Panthers coach Ron Rivera at Cal, where Rodgers handled two of the five laterals during “The Play” against Stanford in 1982.
After three seasons in the Arena League, Rodgers became a college coach, with stops at Diablo Valley (Calif.) Community College, San Jose State, Portland State, New Mexico State and Holy Cross.
His two sons with his first wife – Richard and Christopher – were mainstays at practices and camps wherever their dad was coaching.
“They were there and running around. I had to keep my head on a swivel,” Rodgers Sr. said. “They were definitely football brats. Everywhere I was, they were there.”
Including in the meeting rooms, where their father occasionally would let them watch film with him.
“It gives you a lot of opportunity to learn about the game,” the younger Rodgers said in a phone interview Friday.
Rodgers missed a lot of Richard’s football games, but attended all of his basketball and baseball games, which were his best sports growing up. Two of his relatives on Richard’s mother’s side – his grandfather, Clyde Mashore and uncle Damon Mashore – each played several seasons in the major leagues.
But there is football in Richard’s bloodlines, as well. His cousin is New Orleans safety Jairus Byrd, whose father, Gill Byrd, is the cornerbacks coach at Tampa Bay.
At his father’s urging, the younger Rodgers didn’t go out for football until he was a high school sophomore, and has less wear-and-tear than other players his age.
“I definitely wanted to play,” he said. “My dad was smart about it because he knew the toll football takes on your body.”
Rodgers pulled down 65 passes for 1,064 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior at St. John’s in Massachusetts when his dad was an assistant at Holy Cross. He accepted a scholarship to Cal, where his father had a big part in one of college football’s best-known moments.
“The fact that he went to Cal ... he was involved in ‘The Play’ and everything,” Richard said. “That was a special thing for me to go to the same school as he did, follow in his footsteps.”
The younger Rodgers was a tight end under former Bears coach Jeff Tedford, but was told to drop 30 pounds so he could play inside receiver when Sonny Dykes replaced Tedford. He caught a career-high 39 passes for 608 yards last season before leaving early for the draft.
When the Panthers met with the younger Rodgers at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, Rivera asked his father to leave the room. But Rodgers Sr. said he would have given an honest assessment, just as he did when his son asked him about entering the draft early.
“He's heard all those things from me,” Rodgers Sr. said. “I'm not going to start with, ‘You're great.’ I’d probably start with, ‘You've got a lot of stuff to work on if you plan on playing at this level in this league.’ And clearly he still does. He has a lot of stuff to work on.”
Rodgers Sr. had stepped out of the Panthers’ draft room during the second night of the May draft when his son’s name popped up on the TV screen as the Packers’ third-round selection. The coaches quickly called him back into the room, so he could hear the official announcement of the pick.
“I know this much,” Rivera said, “Richard’s very proud of his son.”
Rodgers has started four games, but is currently listed as Green Bay’s No. 2 tight end behind Andrew Quarless, who caught the game-winning touchdown last week against Miami.
Rodgers’ only two receptions came in a Week 4 win against Chicago, including a 43-yarder. His dad believes he can be a successful every-down tight end who is adept at blocking and receiving.
That’s what he would have told Rivera or defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had they asked for the scouting report.
“I don’t think there's anything they can get out of me about him,” said Rodgers, referring to his special teams responsibilities. “Plus, he’s my kid.”