Mike Vandermause column: Rodgers deals with drama again thanks to Braun, Jennings

Jul. 26, 2013

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers takes Ray Nitschke Field on Friday for the opening of training camp practice. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
Aaron Rodgers says he was 'shocked' when his friend Ryan Braun admitted he violated baseball's rules against using performance-enhancing substances. / AP


Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers spent more time Friday answering questions about friendship, betrayal and forgiveness than he did about football.

It was anything but a normal start to training camp, and Rodgers did his best to keep the focus on the field.

But he couldn’t avoid the barrage of questions about his friend, Ryan Braun, or his former teammate, Greg Jennings, who have taken turns this week throwing Rodgers under the bus.

“Aaron’s dealt with a lot since he became the quarterback here,” Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. “I’m sure he was looking for an offseason without controversy, and unfortunately he didn’t get one.”

Rodgers can thank Braun and Jennings for that.

He was lied to by Braun and forced to wipe egg off his face for staunchly defending the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder, who admitted Monday to violating Major League Baseball’s ban against performance enhancing drugs.

“Well, I was shocked, I really was, just like I know many of you were,” Rodgers said of Braun. “I was backing up a friend, who looked me in the eye on multiple occasions and repeatedly denied these allegations, said they weren’t true. So it is disappointing.

“It doesn’t feel great being lied to like that, and I’m disappointed about the way it all went down.”

Last year, Rodgers came rushing to Braun’s defense. He called the baseball player’s detractors idiots and on Twitter facetiously said he would bet a follower a year’s salary that Braun never used PEDs.

Rodgers said he has learned something from the experience.

“I don’t regret backing a friend up,” he said. “In hindsight, a more measured approach next time would obviously be a better course of action. People make mistakes. I definitely believe in forgiveness and moving forward. Obviously, he has a tough task in front of him moving forward with his career, on and off the field.”

Rodgers said he has spoken with Braun this week but was noncommittal about their business relationship going forward.

When asked if he still considered Braun a friend, Rodgers said: “I was disappointed by the way it went down. I trusted him, and that’s the thing that probably hurts the most.”

It also has to hurt that Jennings, his former favorite target in Green Bay who signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings during the offseason, essentially said Rodgers is more concerned with himself than the team and isn’t willing to be held accountable.

Those are strong accusations, yet Rodgers took the high road and refused to fire back at Jennings.

“I’ve seen a lot, been around a lot, learned a lot of lessons, and I think one of the lessons you learn is you can’t control everything and you shouldn’t worry too much about the things that are said outside the building,” Rodgers said. “You worry about the opinions of your teammates and how they feel about you.”

Nelson admitted he was surprised by the incendiary comments made by Jennings, who spent seven seasons with the Packers.

“Anytime a guy leaves a team who’s been there for so long and then starts coming out and saying certain things, it surprises I think everyone,” Nelson said. “I think it’s unfortunate, and we’re ready to move on.”

Packers receiver Randall Cobb called Rodgers “a great leader.” He isn’t sure what to make of Jennings’ comments.

“I’m not Greg’s brain, so I really can’t answer that,” Cobb said. “I don’t know what Greg’s thinking. Whenever he says whatever he says, that’s his decision, his opinion. That’s not mine.”

Both Nelson and Cobb admire Rodgers for the way he rises above the mudslinging.

“He does a great job handling it,” Nelson said. “You kind of expect him to explode eventually.

“He’s had a rough — a lot of distractions his first few years. He’s a pro about it. He handles it the right way, and I believe he will continue to do so.”

For Rodgers, it’s just another day in the life of a prominent NFL quarterback, where the drama often takes place off the field, and dealing with distractions is as important as reading defenses.

mvandermause@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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