GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers, halfway through his career? Already? This is his ninth NFL season. He turns 30 in December. With the best career passer rating in NFL history (104.9), he’s already proved to be a worthy heir to Brett Favre. It was an active offseason for Rodgers, with a formerly rocky relationship with Favre recently repaired, a new $130 million contract, a split in his friendship with the Brewers’ Ryan Braun over the latter’s involvement with PEDs, and heavy criticism from former Packers receiver Greg Jennings. On Tuesday, The MMQB’s editor-in-chief, Peter King, met with Rodgers in a Lambeau Field break room. Rodgers, downing a grape energy drink, was expansive. His thoughts on …
“I’ve gotten to learn what’s important in life and what’s not important, and what to spend energy on and what not to. I don’t have a family like some of my teammates, but I have a lot of things pulling at me that I have to put my energy into. I love my charity work. I love my privacy. I love my offseason. I don’t have time to really worry or think about things that are just negatively based and negatively energized. They’re draining. It’s just not what I want to do. So, instead I try to focus on things that are uplifting and give me energy and give me life.”
“I was very energized by seeing Brett at the NFL Awards at the Super Bowl, and being able to talk to him for the first time in forever. I think that was a good thing for him and me, for the future of the organization, and hopefully the fans as well. It was a time for healing. I definitely had trepidation going in. I just didn’t know how he was going to be. But we talked on the phone the night before, and it was good to talk to him. I knew the second we hung up that it was going to be a good thing. He was joking around, I was joking around. We were remembering some funny old stories, and I just knew that we were both in the right spot mentally. I was backstage with him, Joe Montana and the Mannings—Peyton, Eli and Archie. And a bunch of other people walked in and out, but I got a really sweet pic from that night with Peyton, me and Brett. We’ve talked a few times since, and texted. We’re good. I’m very happy about it.”
“The thing with Ryan was very tough, because he and I were very close friends, and he let me stick my neck out for him and wasn’t honest with me. That’s not something you can let just wash over you—you have to sit with that and deal with that, and it’s frustrating. I’m dealing with it.”
“People taking shots at me who aren’t relevant to this team and to this locker room doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. Those comments do wash over with me without a reaction, because they don’t matter.”
“I take it really seriously. It’s important to me. I look for my opportunities, not trying to go outside of my genuine realm, because leadership has to be genuine and authentic. I might pull a receiver aside and give him a little tidbit in the locker room, in the lunchroom. I think you need to be intentional at times about your leadership—where you’re eating lunch, who you’re interacting with, making guys feel like you’re interested in what they’re doing. If it’s authentic, then it’s going to be an easy conversation and easy hangout time. Nicknames and inside jokes go a long way with players, especially guys that maybe aren’t on your side of the ball. Like, I just found out that Andy Mulumba, our new outside backer [full name Andy Leon Mulumba Kabaluapa; he was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo]—one of his name means ‘King of the Village’ and the other one means, ‘You’re Not Welcome Here.’ Instead of calling him You’re Not Welcome Here, I’ve been calling him King of the Village.
I want to be the best. I want to be counted on by my teammates. I want to be counted on by this organization and the fans. I want to be someone they know is going to bring it every single week. I prepare to be the best. I train in the offseason to be the best. I take it very seriously, and I’ve still got a long way to go.”
“Tom Brady told me after the ’07 season—we got to play a little golf, and I picked his brain—that you should work on at least one or two things every offseason. So, I took that to heart and picked a few things every year to really try to focus on in the offseason. One year it was ball-handling; I wanted to be really good with fakes. One year it was eye control—making sure that I looked off every single time I threw. This season we went through the cutups in the spring, and one thing that stood out was deep balls. We weren’t as efficient as we had been in the past this year on deep balls, so I really focused on my deep throws—especially to the left. I was missing some out of bounds. I also lifted heavier and harder than I have in probably six years.”
“Jared Allen is probably the best pass rusher I face, but the two guys starting to give us real issues are Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Really good players. Bright futures.”
“Nutrition’s big to me. I don’t want to give away all of my secrets. It’s really not much—80 percent of the time eating every three hours with carbs and proteins. Smaller portions, less sauces, less sugars, and getting your metabolism up. The other 20 percent? Ice cream, and frozen mochas from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.”
“I love going to the beach and putting my feet in the sand. I hike—there’s some fun trails around North County, above San Diego. I love golf, and I got to play with Brian Urlacher at that American Century tournament in Tahoe last month. Brian was a blast. He shoots in the 70s—really good.”
“I signed that new contract this offseason. Money’s a blessing, but it can’t buy you happiness. It can help with the burdens of future generations. With what we do, you have to find your identity outside the game, outside the fame. You have to have people outside the game keep you in line.”
“After football? I’d like to semi-disappear. I love the game. The game’s been incredible to me. But disappearing’s good too. Disappearing to me is not being on TV, not being on the radio. I’d like to coach somewhere at a high school, trying to help the next generation, trying to help the next kid overcome the odds and be the best he can be.”
“I love our game, but to me, there’s too much access. It’s way over the top. From the camera in the locker room, from the center being miked, to all the attention … Everybody’s watching. Everybody’s listening. And social media: If I’m out, more than likely, there’s going to be a camera on me, and a picture or video’s going to show up somewhere.
“I feel bad for Johnny Manziel. I mean, he’s made some decisions … I just think, he’s a 20-year-old kid, and I wish he could just live like a 20-year-old.
“Ten years ago, when I was in college, nobody was following anyone around. I could walk around campus [at Cal] and no one knew who I was. No Twitter. Facebook was just starting. I didn’t even know what my Berkeley.edu address was. I couldn’t get a Facebook page. So that’s how things have changed.
“I don’t do Instagram. I don’t want people to know where I am.”
The 2013 Season
“We open with San Francisco. [Big grin.] I’d like to open with a team that maybe wasn’t as good. But it’ll be good to see where we stand.”