This could be the last year Aaron Rodgers plays for the Packers. Twelve months ago, Rodgers believed it was his final ride in a cheese-colored helmet.
“Last year at this time, I was looking at the season as my last year in Green Bay,” Rodgers told King for his latest Football Morning in America column.
Rodgers declined to discuss the future beyond the coming season. For now, it’s serenity now (and/or Serenity by Jan).
“I really do love it,” Rodgers said of playing for the Packers. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have come back. I’ve got so many other things that I love and I’m passionate about. I love competing. I love practice, still. I’ve had a really good camp. Last year I felt like I started a little slow and then something clicked. I’ve actually had a really good camp here. I feel good about where I’m at.”
Rodgers also — as he said during the offseason — loves his teammates and the coaching staff. His feelings on the front office (specifically G.M. Brian Gutekunst) aren’t quite the same.
“I mean, the people I have to deal with every day is the staff, my teammates,” Rodgers told King. “I have a really good relationship with the staff. Once you get into the football season, those are the most important relationships because you’re talking with them every day. I’ve always had a good relationship with Matt when it comes to play-calling and installs and stuff I like. Then obviously having [offensive coordinator Nathaniel] Hackett, who’s a close friend, in the room, and [passing game coordinator Luke] Getsy. Those are the most important relationships.”
So what about the G.M.?
“The other one [Gutekunst], you know, I leave space and optimism for growth and change,” Rodgers said. “But, you know, at this point, my focus is just on the football staff and making sure those conversations and communication are right going into the season.”
Rodgers has said what he had to say about the front office, about the manner in which the front office has regarded his input and ideas and preferences and whatever. Now that the 2201 Packers are in camp and in the process of shaping their roster for the coming season (with or without Clay Matthews), Rodgers is focused on having another great year, both in his performance and his happiness.
“I think because of that experience [in 2020], I got a template for how to have the right perspective on things this year,” Rodgers told King. “For me, it really starts with gratitude. I’m not bitter about anything. I might not agree with some of the decisions that are made or the way things have been carried out. I have a ton of gratitude for this city, and the organization, the opportunities I’ve been given here. That’s what I choose to focus on — the things that I do have. That’s a lot of great relationships in the building, an incredible fan base that comes out and watches us every day in training camp. It’s been 16-plus really special years. . . . The future? Who knows what’s going to happen. Right now I’m focusing on how special this moment is and this opportunity is.”
It’s the right approach, the smart approach. The circumstances are set for the coming season. Despite whatever big-picture concerns he may have about the way things are done and/or the way the team is run and/or whether the reigning league MVP feels like a second-class citizen in his own organization, he’s all in for 2021.
Come 2022, that may be a different story. It’s a story that won’t begin to be told until after the 2021 season ends.