GREEN BAY, Wis. – While Green Bay Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said the Aaron Rodgers saga is dividing the fan base, the MVP quarterback’s feud with the team hasn’t created a divide in the locker room, at least among the team’s most important players.
“I care about Aaron Rodgers from a friend perspective. Whatever he wants to do, whatever the situation that comes out, I will never hold any grudge against him. That is my friend,” All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari said after Tuesday’s minicamp practice.
Physically, Rodgers was about 2,000 miles from Green Bay for Day 1 of the team’s mandatory minicamp. Metaphorically, he was much further distant from the NFL city he’s called home since 2005. Mired in a dispute over the character and culture atop the organization, Rodgers skipped the virtual offseason and the voluntary organized team activities.
The only player not present for minicamp, Rodgers’ absence is the first noteworthy development since he voiced his unhappiness with the team via a series of anonymous-source reports on draft weekend.
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The team’s public-relations staff made two of Rodgers’ closest friends available for post-practice availability. Bakhtiari, who is coming off a torn ACL, and All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, who skipped OTAs but is practicing at minicamp, made it clear they have the quarterback’s back.
“That is someone that I have appreciated, and he has done a lot for this organization and a lot for me as an individual,” Bakhtiari said. “Now, as a teammate I would be idiotic to say that I don't want the MVP back. He's the MVP of the league last year. He's done amazing things as from the quarterback perspective, our quarterback position, but not only for the franchise. So, absolutely. Spending time with him, I do give him jabs but it's all good and fun. I've definitely voiced to him, I'm like, ‘You know what? Whatever happens, look, it's out of my control. The situation is between you in the organization, and that's where it's going to stay. I don't want to at all in any time get in the middle of that. I respect you as a friend and, however that turns out, I'm not going to take anything personally.’”
While Rodgers is upset with general manager Brian Gutekunst, Gutekunst has mostly kept the roster intact despite the challenges stemming from a COVID-impacted salary cap. He has restructured numerous contracts, most recently that of defensive tackle Dean Lowry, to not only get beneath the cap but create enough room to re-sign star running back Aaron Jones.
It’s a championship-caliber roster, so long as the reigning MVP is in the lineup “steering the ship,” as Adams put it. It’s an outcome he said he’s “praying for.”
Adams is entering his final season under contract. Has he considered using his powers of persuasion to coax Rodgers back so they can make one last run at a Super Bowl in 2021, then deal with 2022 as it comes?
“I could say that. That’s obviously the morale that I come with, that’s the type of message I want to send to him,” Adams said. “But there’s so much that goes into it. Once again, that’s positive, a very positive outlook, but that also could be viewed as selfish and I don’t want to put any pressure on anybody that would be in that situation, let alone Aaron Rodgers, so we’re going to let him figure it out.
“I’m sure he’s already thinking, ‘Of course I want to play with Tae,’ so I’m not saying anything that’s probably not already on his mind. So, at this point, it’s just going to come down to the logistics, and him and the club kind of ironing out whatever they have to figure out. Just let them handle that and that’s nothing for me. I’ve got my own stuff to be worrying about. Obviously, worry about missing my quarterback potentially, but as far as really ironing out and do this or do that, that’s not really my place.”