Aaron Rodgers has been called arrogant and snarky since his postgame media conference following the Green Bay Packers’ season-opening victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Emboldened by the Packers’ 42-34 victory, Rodgers used his session with the media to stick it to critics who ripped him and his teammates for not conducting offseason workouts during the NFL lockout.
Four times Rodgers made sarcastic references to the criticism, prompting some to conclude the Packers quarterback is not only a jerk, but has let success go to his head.
Actually, Rodgers was making effective use of his high-profile platform and sending an emphatic message.
During his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee this past week, Rodgers said his responses after the game were calculated, and one or two references to offseason workouts wouldn’t have gotten his point across.
“I feel like we were unfairly attacked by on-air and on-TV personalities that really had no idea what they were talking about when it came to offseason workouts,” Rodgers said.
“I felt like it was necessary to just air my feelings and then move on with that and kind of put that to rest. I just felt like it was a really ridiculous topic.”
Some in the media took offense to Rodgers’ approach. But if those in the media can dish it out, then they also should be willing to take it.
It works both ways, and Rodgers’ spunk is somewhat endearing. What goes around comes around, and if pro athletes are held to certain standards by the media, why not turn the tables when it’s in order?
“The stuff that I’ve kind of caught flak for, you can’t attack the nature of it,” Rodgers said on his radio show. “You can say was it appropriate, was it deliberate, PC (politically correct), or how you’re supposed to deliver it, but you can’t attack the factual nature of the things I said. You can’t attack the fact that I thought we were unfairly — that everybody was slamming us about the offseason workouts. A lot of people did it. A lot of people took shots, you can’t deny that.”
The quarterback for most NFL teams serves as a lightning rod, and Rodgers is no different. Everything he does and says attracts attention, and the spotlight on Rodgers will only get brighter if the Packers’ success grows.
The flip side is that those offended by Rodgers’ brashness will be ready to pounce if and when he struggles.
But maybe that’s the way Rodgers wants it. He has played — and thrived — with a prove-them-wrong mentality his entire career and has attempted to use any slight to his advantage.
“I think it’s obvious he has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, based on the way he has come into this league, and I think that’s a great thing,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “It’s something that he uses to motivate himself. He’s an extremely motivated young man.”
The slights along Rodgers’ career path are well documented, including getting overlooked by college recruiters coming out of high school, free-falling in the 2005 NFL draft, and hearing boos when he replaced Brett Favre as the Packers’ starting quarterback.
All have served to motivate him. But as Rodgers’ career continues its ascent, his attitude is evolving.
“I’m motivated now by my strong desire to be great and to play great every week and that’s enough motivation that I need,” Rodgers said. “I want to be a great player, great leader, a consistent person.”
Rodgers is already one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and his season-opening performance against the Saints indicates he’s only getting better.
“I think expectations have changed, definitely, but that’s a good thing,” Rodgers said in the locker room this week. “That’s because we’ve had success here and that is extra pressure, but I don’t think anything can match up to the pressure I put on myself. I’m my own worst critic.”
As for the dwindling number of other critics out there, Rodgers is confident enough to publicly call them out when necessary.
— Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.