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Rodgers' extension, injury, return among Packers' top 10 stories of 2013

Jan. 2, 2014
 
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers warms up before Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers warms up before Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
Receiver Donald Driver retired in January as the team's all-time leading receiver. / File/Gannett Wisconsin Media

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Everything revolves around the quarterback, especially in Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers made big news in 2013. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Rodgers was part of the three biggest Packers’ stories of the year.

Here is Press-Gazette Media’s annual list of the Packers’ top 10 stories:

Down and out

1 Rodgers was knocked out of commission for nearly two months when he was sacked during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 4 and broke his collarbone. The Packers failed to win any of their next five games and went from being one of the best teams in the NFC to a sub-.500 also-ran. After using just three starting quarterbacks during the last 21 years, the Packers used four starters during the month of November.

Rodgers’ medical condition and healing process became a weekly drama, with leading roles played by coach Mike McCarthy, team physician Pat McKenzie, general manager Ted Thompson and Rodgers. On the day after Christmas, 52 days after the injury, Rodgers was declared ready to play again in time for the regular-season finale.

Dramatic return

2 Rodgers’ return couldn’t have been more dramatic, with the NFC North championship on the line against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. After throwing two early interceptions, Rodgers found his groove and led the Packers on three touchdown drives in their final four possessions. He saved his best for last. On fourth-and-8 with less than a minute remaining and the Packers trailing 28-26 and the season hanging in the balance, Rodgers averted a 7-man Bears rush with a scramble to his left. He set himself long enough to heave a 48-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 38 seconds remaining, giving the Packers their third straight division title and fifth consecutive playoff berth.

Big money

3 In April, the Packers made Rodgers the highest-paid player in NFL history, based on average salary, by giving him a five-year, $110 million contract extension that goes through the 2019 season and includes $54 million in guaranteed money. Earlier in the month, the Packers gave their best defensive player, linebacker Clay Matthews, a five-year contract extension that averages $13.2 million per year and included a $20.5 million signing bonus. The Packers completed their big-money spending spree in July when they gave safety Morgan Burnett a five-year, $26.073 million contract.

Mixed results

4 The Packers won a home playoff game at Lambeau Field for the first time in six years when they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 on Jan. 5 and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs for the third straight year. But their season ended Jan. 12 at Candlestick Park in a 45-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, who rolled up 579 total yards and were led by Colin Kaepernick’s NFL-quarterback-record 181 rushing yards.

Comeback kid

5 While Rodgers was out, backup Matt Flynn performed some late-season magic that kept the Packers in playoff contention. Flynn rallied the Packers from a 23-point second-half deficit to a 37-36 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, which tied the largest comeback in team history. Flynn also was directing the offense when the Packers came back from an 11-point second-half deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 22-21, and when they overcame a 23-7 third-quarter deficit to tie the Vikings, 26-26. Flynn had been sent packing by the Seahawks, Raiders and Bills during the past year before he re-signed with the Packers in November.

Draft appeal

6 The Packers got a steal in the second round of the April draft when they took running back Eddie Lacy with the 61st overall pick. Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards to break John Brockington’s 42-year-old rookie team record. The Packers also received immediate dividends from fourth-rounder David Bakhtiari, who started the entire season at left tackle.

Hall of Famer

7 It took nearly 40 years after his playing career ended, but former Packers linebacker Dave Robinson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming the 11th Packer from the 1960s Glory Years to receive that distinction.

Bidding farewell

8 The Packers said goodbye to three veterans that played key roles on their Super Bowl title team in 2010, including Donald Driver, who retired in January as the team’s all-time leading receiver; defensive back Charles Woodson, who was cut in February as the team’s all-time leader in defensive touchdowns (10); and receiver Greg Jennings, who signed a free-agent contract with Minnesota in March.

Stadium expansion

9 The Packers added 7,000 seats to Lambeau Field, increasing capacity to 80,750, third largest in the NFL. Late in the year the Packers opened their new training facility that includes a weight room, indoor practice field and cafeteria.

Key injuries

10 The injury bug bit the Packers hard, with 15 players landing on injured reserve, including key contributors Bryan Bulaga, Jermichael Finley, Casey Hayward and Johnny Jolly. Cobb also missed 10 games with a broken leg and Matthews five with a broken thumb.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
573 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
23%
853 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1011 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1268 votes

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Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports