Just as valuable an asset as his arm strength, mobility and microprocessor of a brain is Rodgers’s voice, loaded with bass and thump and a tinge of soul. With it, he has coaxed eight neutral-zone infractions this season — including three in the first 21 minutes against Carolina last month — by using rhythm and inflection to exploit defenders’ aggressiveness, a tactic known as a hard count.Mixing, though, can involve establishing what looks like a pattern.
Any gifted practitioner of the hard count must know his audience and convince it that the ball will be snapped. Rodgers strives to do this by making every call sound — and look — the same.And at the same time being careful not to do anything that looks like a routine.
He might use his normal snap count for five, 10, 15 consecutive plays before changing it; for instance, if the ball has been snapped on two, he will adapt by emphasizing the second “hut” and expecting the ball on three.
What makes Rodgers’s count particularly difficult to decode, Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said, is that Rodgers has no perceptible tendencies. And if he did have them, Rodgers would know.The stakes are high, and the return on investment appears also to be high.
Besides reviewing the coaches’ film, which shows all 22 players on the field from above, Rodgers watches the network broadcast of a game. The microphones on the field improve the experience for fans watching on television, but they are anathema to a quarterback like Rodgers, who finds them intrusive, giving teams a starting point in parsing his every utterance for meaning.
He listens to his voice, trying to detect any variations in volume or inflection from his regular snap count to his hard count to his double cadence — the fake signals he chirps in an effort to expose the defensive strategy before he must call the play. When necessary, Rodgers said, he makes changes.