This is what happens when Aaron Rodgers stops being polite and starts getting real.
Welcome to a Real World: Green Bay appreciation post. Or an Aaron Rodgers appreciation post. Or, more specifically, an Aaron Rodgers press conference appreciation post. In his first public presser at Packers training camp, speaking one day after he reportedly agreed to restructure his deal with Green Bay, Rodgers was polite but unflinching, and made it clear in his 30-minute appearance that while he wants to play for the Packers this season, he has unresolved issues with the organization.
Here are the highlights:
“The organization looks at me and my job as just to play,” Rodgers said, adding that he believes he should have “a little more input.”
Rodgers said his frustrations with the team—specifically the personnel department and general manager Brian Gutekunst—stemmed largely from a conversation last February after the 2020 season ended in which Rodgers expressed a “desire to be more involved in conversations directly affecting my job.”
Rodgers said he was not included in subsequent conversations about personnel decisions during free agency in March or ahead of the draft in April.
“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 is one I wanted to change moving forward. I thought based on my years and the way I can still play that that should be a natural part of the conversation.”
Rodgers mentioned that the Packers had not offered him a contract extension after the 2020 season even though it would have given them extra salary cap room, something Rodgers took as a lack of commitment beyond 2021.
“We got into March and the conversation changed,” Rodgers said. “I felt like, if you can’t commit to me past 2021 and I’m not a part of the recruiting process in free agency, if I’m not a part of the future, then instead of letting me be a lame duck quarterback, if you want to make a change and move forward then go ahead and do it. That obviously didn’t happen.”
When the Packers refused to trade Rodgers over the summer, Rodgers said he considered retiring but ultimately decided he still wanted to play football. He’s committed to playing for the Packers this season but by restructuring his current deal he’ll reportedly void the final year in 2023, making it much more likely that Green Bay trades him next offseason if there is no resolution to their issues. Rodgers did say, however, that he is not under the impression he will get to choose where he plays in 2022.
Asked whether he felt his relationship with the organization could be repaired in such a way that he would stay beyond this season, Rodgers said he wasn’t sure.
“I would never want anybody to give up on me,” Rodgers said. “But people have to be willing to make those changes.”
Rodgers said that he did not try to get Gutekunst fired and that their relationship was “professional.” Asked if he wanted to be at training camp, Rodgers said that he did and that he loves Green Bay, his teammates, and his coaches. (He did not mention the front office.)
And yes, Jake Kumerow—a reserve wideout with 21 career receptions who was cut during training camp in 2020 shortly after Rodgers went out of his way to praise him publicly—did come up. Rodgers listed several other former Packers he felt had been disrespected by the front office on their way out of Green Bay, dating back to Charles Woodson.
“If you’re going to cut a guy who, based on a meritocracy, was our second-best wide receiver in training camp last year for the majority of camp, maybe run it by me,” Rodgers said.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the tea. It’s delightful and rare to hear that type of candor from an NFL podium, and satisfying to hear Rodgers acknowledge the events that have made up the biggest story in the league for the past six months. His remarks Wednesday were not out of a thirst for drama or to air dirty laundry, though. (OK, maybe a little.) Rodgers answered every question clearly, which diminishes the likelihood he’ll be asked the same questions again. It’s been obvious for a long time that he has qualms with his status in Green Bay, and putting it all out in the open helps take the air of scandal out of the story and places the onus on the Packers to compromise. It seems like a plus for Rodgers, and probably a plus for the team, that he spoke so openly. It was definitely a plus for Jake Kumerow. The truth will set you free.