GREEN BAY, Wis. – While Aaron Rodgers’ long pursuit of a second trip to the Super Bowl will continue in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, another beloved member of the Green Bay Packers is seeking his first.
Tight end Marcedes Lewis almost got there a few years ago. In the 2017 playoffs, the Jacksonville Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game at Tom Brady’s New England Patriots. Lewis’ touchdown catch early in the second quarter gave the Jaguars a 7-3 lead. When Josh Lambo booted a 43-yard field goal to give the Jaguars a 20-10 lead, they were 14 minutes, 52 seconds from the Super Bowl.
Brady, however, rallied the Patriots to a 24-20 victory. Two months later, the Jaguars released Lewis.
On Sunday at Lambeau Field, the legendary Brady will be leading the Buccaneers while the gritty Lewis will be trying to help his good friend Rodgers get to his first Super Bowl in a decade. Brady is in his first season with Tampa Bay after spending 20 years with Bill Belichick in New England. Lewis is in his third year with Green Bay after spending his first dozen seasons with Jacksonville.
“Obviously, it’s challenging,” Lewis said of changing teams late in his career. “Think about it: Even if you’re in a desk job for 12 years and you go to another company, it’s going to be challenging because you get there and you’re trying to figure out the culture and how they go about their business from top to bottom. For me, I’ve always had the mindset of just living my life like I’m on a one-day contract, and just being the best I can be. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Once upon a time, Lewis was a dual-threat tight end. The Jaguars’ first-round pick in 2006, he averaged 43 receptions during a six-year span from 2007 through 2012 and scored 10 touchdowns in 2010. Now, Lewis is a rough-and-tumble blocker who relishes doing the dirty work as a key part of coach Matt LaFleur’s offense. In three seasons with the Packers, he’s caught a total of 28 passes. But his tenacity, wisdom and leadership ability have made him a valuable and respected member of the team.
“We’ve been talking a lot about how a positive wave can be so powerful, and I feel like we have that wave building and it's been building and building and building,” Rodgers said. “It's kind of been backboned by so many great people, like Big Dog, who won't show up in the stat sheet a whole lot. But he is such a special human and greatest, in my opinion, blocking tight end, definitely of his generation.
On Friday, Rodgers recalled a moment of frustration at Thursday’s practice that Lewis solved with a hug.
Last week, tight end Robert Tonyan told a story about how Lewis decided to return for another season in part to help Tonyan reach his potential.
Last year, when former defensive lineman James Looney was switched to tight end, Lewis was there to help.
So, while getting Rodgers to another Super Bowl is a priority, the same holds true of helping the 36-year-old Lewis – a throwback player with a new-age mentality – get to the Big Game.
“This is the pinnacle. It would mean everything,” Lewis said of winning this game. “Obviously, this is what you get in the game for. This is why I started playing ball at 8 years old. You want to win championships, and it’s right there in front of us. I think the difference between this year and last year, I think this year as a whole we all understand the task at hand, and this game doesn’t even matter if we don’t get to the big game. So, very focused, not a lot of joking around, and we understand what the finality of it is. So, very excited.”