Aaron Rodgers gives his side of the story during first day of training camp
GREEN BAY, Wis. — For one of the first times since his dispute with Green Bay Packers management began earlier this year, Aaron Rodgers shared his point of view Wednesday.
The reigning NFL MVP took questions from reporters who largely had one question — why?
Outside of a quick ESPN interview in May in which he talked vaguely about the organization’s culture and philosophy, Rodgers hadn’t really explained why he almost didn’t return to the Packers for a 17th season.
In his first official press conference on the topic during the first day of Packers training camp, Rodgers explained his feelings in more detail.
“I wanted to help the organization maybe learn from some of their mistakes in the past, in my opinion, about the way that some of the outgoing veterans were treated and just the fact we didn’t retain a number of players that I felt like were core players,” Rodgers said.
Over the last several years, the Packers did not keep names like Jordy Nelson, Julius Peppers, Randall Cobb, James Jones, T.J. Lang and Micah Hyde when they became free agents, allowing them to sign deals elsewhere.
Eventually, Rodgers wondered if the same would happen to him, so he was looking for some security beyond the 2021 season. But he says the topic of a contract extension wasn’t brought to him by management until May — after his reluctance to return for another season was already made public.
“That to me seemed like, an analogy you guys will understand, you have a fantastic year at work, you go to your boss and say, ‘I just had an incredible year, I think I deserve a pay raise or some security,’ and the boss goes, ‘Eh, we’ll see how it goes.'”
Still, Rodgers reiterated the desire for a commitment wasn’t about money.
“It was bigger than this,” Rodgers said about the extension talks. “It was about trying to be a resource for the organization that I care about and love so much.”
Rodgers says he wanted to be involved in conversations about free agents because he felt he could act as a recruiter to attract other stars to the Packers, similar to how Tom Brady may have drawn players to the reigning champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Green Bay isn’t a huge vacation destination. People are coming here to play with me, to play with our team and knowing that they can win a championship here,” Rodgers said. “The fact that I haven’t been used in those discussions was something I wanted to change moving forward.”
It’s unclear if those changes have been made, although ESPN reported it may be one of the things that helped bring Rodgers back for at least one more season. After that, things are still up in the air, according to Rodgers.
“I’m just going to focus on this year,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving pieces besides myself, expiring contracts for a number of guys, so there’s going to be a lot of tough decisions at the end of the year. I’m just going to enjoy this year and then revisit that conversation at the end of the season.”
Rodgers disputed reports that he had wanted Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst fired, saying their relationship is professional at this point. And he wanted to make something else clear — he’s at training camp because he wants to be there.
“I love this team, I love the fans and the opportunity to play on Lambeau Field has been a dream come true. To be in my 17th season has been really special, I don’t take that for granted,” Rodgers said.
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