Packers fans glad Rodgers is back, but high expectations for a Super Bowl could sour if he underperforms
GREEN BAY – Green Bay Packers fans are glad quarterback Aaron Rodgers is back in camp and optimistic he'll perform at the level they've come to expect. After this summer's ongoing drama, he'd better.
"There's going to be a microscope on him," said Trent Lamphier of Moline, Ill., who was visiting Lambeau Field Tuesday with his sons. "He throws a couple of early picks and it's going to be 'he wasn't there for the minicamp' and all that. So it's a lot of pressure."
A short recap: An ESPN reporter said on NFL draft day in April that Rodgers was unhappy with the Packers and wanted to be traded. What followed were three months of speculation about why Rodgers was unhappy and what he really wanted. No one knew for sure, because, other than one cryptic ESPN interview, Rodgers never said. On Monday, during the Packers annual shareholders meeting — the timing cannot be thought of as coincidental — it was reported that Rodgers would play for the Packers again this year after changes in his contract that would allow him to leave the Packers in 2022 or certainly 2023.
Neither Rodgers or the Packers have commented, but Rodgers flew into Green Bay on Monday. Tuesday was the day for players to report for training camp, which begins Wednesday.
Fans at Lambeau Field on Tuesday did not speak passionately in Rodgers' defense. Like the quarterback himself, they seem to take an arms-length view of matters. They recognize his superior ability and his importance to the team, but they aren't buying into whatever narrative he may have had in his head.
A Press-Gazette reader survey in June showed a willingness for Rodgers's return, but less support for his complaints.
It was telling that during Monday's shareholders meeting that Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy and General Manager Brian Gutekunst, who reportedly are the center of Rodgers' ire, were applauded and not booed.
Rodgers has received some backing on social media, although that often comes across as more unhappiness at management than support of the quarterback.
Packers fans, however, said they're glad he'll be the quarterback again this year.
"I'm just glad to hear that I think he's here and he's going to play," said Darcey Vanderhoef of Las Vegas. "That's all we really want, is for him to come back and play."
RELATED:Fans will be back at the Green Bay Packers' training camp, but here' are the changes you should know before you go
RELATED:It took 29 years and cost more than $10,000 for this Green Bay Packers fan to get season tickets. He says it's worth it.
Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams earlier this week Tweeted images of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, referring to the documentary "The Last Dance," about Jordan's career and his last season with the Chicago Bulls. Neither explained what they meant, so speculation continues.
Treyton Lamphier of Moline, a 20-year-old wide receiver for Washington University in St. Louis, said Rodgers will have to live up to "The Last Dance" narrative, which ended in an NBA championship. If Rodgers doesn't play well, the reaction will be negative.
"Not just Packers fans, but also from the football community themselves, because it's made those comparisons to Michael Jordan. I've seen on Twitter how it should be John Stockton and Karl Malone (of the Utah Jazz) ... because they haven't won the championship," Lamphier said. "If he doesn't win again in his Last Dance, that's just going to reinforce those storylines about he he hasn't gotten it done since 2010 and can't get over the final hump."
Mark Post, a Packers shareholder from Jackson, Tenn., said Murphy didn't help matters when he referred to Rodgers in June as a "complicated fellow."
"That's not necessary. Let's keep it professional and behind closed doors. Tell the public as much as you can, but it seemed like there were statements that came out from both sides that really doesn't meet that standard," he said.
Like Lamphier, Post said Rodgers will quickly face criticism if he doesn't play well this year.
"I think people will really question it and use that as a reason to say, 'Well, all this drama that took place with negotiations and the contract dispute had an effect on his playing.' Hopefully that won't be the case, but I think people will use that as an excuse and come down on him," Post said.
But Packers fans are nothing if not optimistic. Post said the Packers are in a great position to do well this year and he's thinking of attending a couple of games at Lambeau Field because he's heard it might be Rodgers' last year.
As a newer Rodgers fan, Nathan Doeden of Custer, Wash., is glad he didn't get traded or retire.
"I've been warming up to him slowly. I'm finally into the whole Aaron Rodgers thing and I kind of wish he would stay around," he said.
As speculation increased that Rodgers would likely come back, TickPick, a secondary marketplace, said Tuesday that transactions for Packers games tripled in the last seven days.
Even young Packers fans were swept up in the drama and understood the stakes.
"As a Packers fan, I'm definitely going to cherish this season, as it might be the last," said Lowen Holthaus, 15, of Santa Barbara County, Calif.
His brother, Levi Holthaus, 9, is happy Rodgers returned to the Packers, but is disappointed he might not be back next year.
"I was really worried. It was kind of up and down what the media was saying. I was worried that he wasn't going to come back, but he's coming back for one more season and I'm happy," Levi said.
The Lamphiers were on the Packers Heritage Trail Monday when they learned Rodgers was coming back.
"I think it's a win-win for both sides. I think the Packers got what they wanted. They got Aaron back for another year and let Jordan (Love) learn some more," Trent Lamphier said. "Obviously, as a Packers fan, we want to win and we want another championship. Losing two in a row, being that close, we need Aaron. So we are very excited to have him back and run it back one more time."
Contact Richard Ryman at (920) 431-8342 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @RichRymanPG, on Instagram at @rrymanPG or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RichardRymanPG/