GREEN BAY, Wis. – For years, Aaron Rodgers has said he wanted to play into his 40s and start and finish his career with the Green Bay Packers.
What transpires over the next five-plus months might determine his future with the only NFL home he’s known.
Rodgers on Wednesday sounded a bit like a lawyer making his closing argument. He had his facts and opinions, and he laid them out slowly and methodically. In a nutshell, he believes the Packers have disrespected their veteran players, whether it was dumping a declining but solid Charles Woodson or leaving Rodgers totally out of the loop of personnel decisions.
If general manager Brian Gutekunst, as Gutekunst put it, can “learn to incorporate” the quarterback’s thoughts into the stew of ideas, maybe the relationship can be salvaged. Then again, maybe the Packers are fully committed to moving on from Rodgers after 2021, anyway.
“Based on the way the season went last year, there was nothing last season that made me confident that I’d be back after ‘21 and maybe even not after 2020,” Rodgers said after the first practice of training camp. “I thought we could progress some of those conversations with maybe a greater commitment during the offseason; that really didn’t happen.”
Rodgers went on to say he loved the team, the fans and “the opportunity to play on Lambeau Field.” He started to say “organization” but cut himself off. Can he see himself finishing his career with that organization given how everything unraveled after the 2020 season?
“I just have to focus on this season,” he said. “To be in my 17th season is really special. I don’t take that for granted. I’m not a victim here at all, I just want to reiterate that. I’ve been paid a ton of money by this organization. I’m so thankful to be a starter here for my 14th season. Not many guys have the opportunity to do that. So, I don’t feel like anything has been done to me. It’s a business. It’s an incredible opportunity to play this game. But it’s a tough business, too, though, and this is part of it. I totally get that point and that’s not lost on me. That’s why I’m just going to enjoy this season like I did last year, have the right perspective, and then make decisions at the end of the season.”
Packers-49ers Injury Report: Ankle Sidelines Jenkins
Tight end Josiah Deguara was back after missing last week with a concussion.
Here are five more noteworthy lines from Rodgers.
On Learning of the Hiring of Matt LaFleur While Playing Golf
“I wasn’t part of that conversation, let’s just make that completely clear. I do love Matt and we’ve had a blast together and I’m glad he’s here. But it’s decisions like that that have happened over and over and over again that make me realize that the organization looks at me and my job as just to play. In my opinion, based on what I’ve accomplished in this league, the way I care about my teammates, the way I show up in the locker room, the way I lead, the way I conduct myself in the community, you should tie myself to a little bit more input.
“The rules are the same for most people, but every now and then there’s some outliers, guys who’ve been in the organization for 17 years and won a few MVPs, where they can be in conversations at a different, higher level. I’m not asking for anything that other great quarterbacks across the last few decades have not gotten, the opportunity to just be in conversation. So, if you’re going to cut a guy, who, based on a meritocracy, was our second-best receiver in training camp last year for the majority of camp, maybe run it by me, see what I feel. I might be able to change your mind. But at least to be in the conversation makes you feel like you’re important, you’re respected. And that’s what I tried to convey in February and for the first couple months. That’s just the way they do it. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but objectively, there’s been a lot of success here over the last 30 years. I just wanted to be a little bit more involved, and I understand that’s not the way it went.”
Photos from Day 1 of Packers Training Camp
Did Aaron Rodgers Consider Retirement?
“Yeah, that was definitely something I thought about. I talked about how important being a full-timer was for a long time. This was the first time to spend the offseason away without a COVID year or a lockout year, and I enjoyed it. I really did. I took time working on myself and trying to better myself in a number of areas where I could improve based on my own patterns and conditioning. And it was a lot of growth. In that process, I continued to find joy and happiness in things off the field. However, there’s still a big competitive hole in my body that I need to fill, and as I got back into my workouts, I just realized that I know I can still play and I want to still play, and as long as feel I can give 100 percent to the team, then I should still play.”
Does Aaron Rodgers Want To Be With the Packers?
“I do. I do. I love my teammates. I love the city. I love my coaches. It is a lot of fun to be back here and, like I said, I’m competitive and I realize the type of team that’s in place here. It’s a team that has a lot of talent on it. It’s been close the last couple years, so I’m definitely excited about this season. I’ve had a lot of great conversations over the last two weeks with various teammates past and present, and that’s definitely refueled the fire to go out and lead and perform at my best. I felt really good today after a long hiatus, just being back out there and feeling like the rhythm and the timing and the accuracy was where I wanted to be. I feel really good about being back. It’s fun to see a lot of the guys. To walk in the locker room, it’s strange after so many months, but it was fun to see the guys, to see the old guys, the trainers, the equipment staff. There’s a lot of fun things about being back and I understand the opportunity that’s here.”
How Different Was It Skipping the Offseason Program?
“It was great. Look, like I said, I think it’s important that we work on our mental state. As you’ve seen with Simone Biles, I think there needs to be more conversation around that. We as athletes are often put on a pedestal that we’re beyond any mental hindrances or clutter, and the only time that mental health often gets talked about is when it’s in the context of depression. I didn’t have any depression, but I have a ton of respect for those who speak out in those situations. For me, it was just about clearing any of the clutter. That’s what I tried to do this offseason by adjusting some habits and spending some time with my loved ones, traveling as safely and as often as I possibly could and then making sure I was ready to go if I came back.”
Does Rodgers See a Path to Finishing His Career With the Packers?
“That’s a tough question to answer. I’m definitely not closing the door on anything. I’m always optimistic in the ability to change. I would never want anybody to give up on me, and I feel like I’ve made a lot of changes over the years to try and improve myself both as a person, as a teammate, as a player, and I’m always going to be optimistic in change being possible. [Former Packers safeties coach] Darren Perry said a quote one time that has always stuck with me and he said, “You can’t motivate people, but you can inspire people.” And true motivation ultimately comes from within. So, people have to be willing to make those changes.