Rodgers: 'Challenge to be the best is what drives me'
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers appears to have found new contentment and motivation since turning 30 in December.
"I've got the 30 drive right now," Rodgers said during an interview with Press-Gazette Media on Wednesday. "You turn 30, I don't know, life is exciting again; 30s is when you've got it all figured out. You start reaching some of your goals, and achieving some great things.
"The challenge to be the best is what drives me and to just improve my body every day."
Rodgers said he would like to finish his current contract with the Packers, which extends through the 2019 season, and sign another one if he's still healthy and productive.
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Rodgers also spoke about his new-found peace of mind.
"I'm very comfortable now in my own skin," he said, "where a few years ago things used to bother me a lot more."
That extends to the social media scrutiny that someone with his star power must constantly face.
"I still enjoy what little privacy I have but I'm not going to change my entire life to try and hide from the scrutiny or the photographers or what have you," Rodgers said.
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During a wide-ranging interview, Rodgers talked about his fervent desire to help the Packers win more Super Bowl championships, his relationship with coach Mike McCarthy and a time early in his football career when he had doubts about his ability.
Q: How is your relationship with McCarthy and how do you handle times when you don't see eye to eye?
Rodgers "I think it's been a real good relationship. There have been some ups and downs, but our downs are never really that low and our ups are usually pretty amazing as far as our continuity. I think right now we're in a real good place. We're both I think at a good stage in our careers where we're comfortable with our success, comfortable with each other's personality. I think it really helped that we started meeting Super Bowl year, we started just being intentional about the time we spent together and our relationship has grown from there. We have a good friendship off the field. It's gotten better working together. He does a good job of delegating when he needs to but I found myself just wanting him to be more connected the last couple years to the quarterback room because he is calling the plays and he's responded to that well. But I think we're in a good place and I think we see the team and the scheme and the progression of this offense the same way."
Q: It's rare for a head coach and quarterback to spend so many years together.
Rodgers "I think when you look back, that's going to be a relationship that definitely has shaped my career. I think about that and how important Mike has been to my success. When I'm frustrated at certain times, I remember that we've been through a lot together and that he's had my back and it's important for me to do the same for him."
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Q: McCarthy said earlier this year he's at halftime of his coaching career. Do you see yourself at halftime of your playing career?
Rodgers "It would be a lot of fun I think to play, to be a starting quarterback with one coach the whole time. I think that says a lot about consistency. That's always been a word I'd like to associate with my career. A lot to be said about playing with one team for your entire career. I have six years left on my contract. I think we structured in a way that as the salary cap rises, my number doesn't rise above maybe a number that I think they could handle. As long as I'm playing consistent, I'd love to get through this contract and maybe do one more. As long as my body can make it, it would be fun. Mike and I have actually joked about it, you're kind of riding off into the sunset together and hopefully that's with a couple more rings and some more good memories."
Q: Brett Favre grew to dislike offseason minicamps later in his career. What's your approach? You seem to enjoy it more but the offseason can get tedious.
Rodgers "Yeah, for sure, I think you have to realize they're for the young guys especially. So you need to challenge yourself in different ways. I've had a lot of fun with challenging my body the last few years to get in really good shape. That's eating and doing some smart things off the field, with yoga and better, more-efficient workouts. I look forward to the weight workouts every day and then just kind of take my reps and sit back and watch. Your legacy as a quarterback and a teammate is a lot about how you treat your teammates, and for me it's how I help out my backups so I try and help those guys out. Love razzing the guys from time to time. This is when your team chemistry forms in the offseason. I look forward to those opportunities to enhance that and look for those opportunities of leadership. As long as the weather's halfway decent, Green Bay's not a bad place in the spring and summer."
Q: There was a recent report that you lost 11 pounds during the offseason doing yoga? Is that true?
Rodgers "I wouldn't put a whole lot into that story. … I've come into most offseasons the last three or four years before this one between 225 and 230. This offseason, I was better about my diet and I did yoga. (I was asked) what I did differently, I said I did more yoga this offseason. But (it wasn't mentioned) that I've been trying to eat a lot better the last few years as I've gotten older. So I just (said) last year I came in around 230 in April and this year I was a little under 220. Eating well, working out and yoga combination."
Rodgers lowers weight through diet, yoga
Q: What is left for you to accomplish in your career?
Rodgers "Well, I don't say this lightly but I think I still have a lot left in the tank. I think I still have a lot of really good football in front of me. I'd love to win a few more championships. That's what we play for every year. It's a tough division, tough conference but I like the challenge of getting myself in really good shape and beating teams with my mind and continuing to play at a really high level. And I think I can do that for an extended period of time."
Q: Other people have doubted you. Have you ever doubted yourself?
Rodgers "Yeah, I was 9-for-34 for 52 yards against Oregon State back in 2003. I said, 'Wow, I can't play any worse, but am I going to get a chance to play again after that performance?' I came back the next week, we played UCLA, I played well, we ended up losing in overtime but threw for 300 yards, threw a fourth-and-10 touchdown to get us into overtime. But after that Oregon State game I was, I had definitely some doubts creeping in a little bit, but I've always been confident in myself. When I got to the NFL, I knew I could play in this league but I didn't really get a chance to show what I could do until the Dallas game (in 2007). Was able to come in and play pretty good. That kind of reassured me about the things I believed about myself could actually be true."
Q: When you hear people refer to you as the best quarterback in the NFL, what goes through your mind?
Rodgers "That I want to prove it. I want to prove them right if they say that. Or if they don't say that, I want to change their mind. But it's all about winning Super Bowls. I've been able to accomplish a lot individually as far as statistics go, with the passer rating, touchdowns, touchdowns to interceptions or what have you. I would trade all of that for some more Super Bowls. I think with the team we've got … 5,000 (passing) yards in Green Bay, or 55 touchdowns is not really on my sight. It's about winning championships, and I think we have the type of team to compete. It's a matter of can we come together and get the chemistry right?"
Q: If you could relive one period of time in your life, what would it be?
Rodgers "I think it would have to be Super Bowl week because when I think about it now, it's just such a blur. I remember having an incredible meal there on I think it was Monday night, incredible meal, this pork chop that came out, and it was like on fire, and it was like the start to the week. And then Media Day is a blur, the week of practice is a blur. You remember like bits and pieces, like Robert Francois getting into a fight with Evan Dietrich-Smith on Friday. We had to be in an indoor facility, it had low ceilings, so you couldn't put some air on the ball. The Super Bowl game is kind of a blur to me as well, other than the cameramen fighting before the game, Christina (Aguilera) mixing up the anthem slightly, I remember just bits and pieces. But to be able to go back and to relive with your eyes wide open, that would be pretty special. That's why we've got to get back there, because the first time you go, I don't know if you really have the same kind of appreciation (than) if we were to go back again."
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Q: What did you learn from sitting out for half of last season with a broken collarbone?
Rodgers "It gives you a greater appreciation for what you do. (Also) how important the little things are to being successful and to being a good teammate and good leader. The energy you bring to practice, the energy you bring in the meetings, the voice and every day being heard by those guys, and talking through things and encouraging guys. And just the presence, it's hard to not be around it but I think I really hopefully showed guys how important it is to be a good teammate. If you are injured and you feel distant from the team, you don't feel exactly like 100 percent part of the team, you can still be a great teammate because ultimately when we're done, the things that stick with you are the relationships."
Q: Team doctor Pat McKenzie was inundated with questions about when you could play last season. Did you get the same questions?
Rodgers "It was brutal because I was at practice a little bit moving around and they saw me throwing and I looked like myself, but obviously I wasn't medically where I needed to be to play and I was in a lot of pain leading up to getting back on the field. So it was really tough because I desperately wanted to be out there with my guys, but at the same time realized I was putting myself in a lot of harm's way if I came back before I was ready and before Doc allowed me to play. If I ever write a book, that will probably be one of the best chapters in it because there's so many things that happened behind the scenes that I'd love to share at some point. But the way it came together and the way that (regular-season finale) ended, was definitely one of the more special moments of my career in my time here and one we'll look back on fondly in 20 years. It would have been definitely a storybook ending had we made a run in the playoffs, but it was still a special moment there in Chicago."
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Q: At this stage of your life and career, you've got it all. Is it hard to stay humble and keep things in perspective?
Rodgers "I don't think that part's easy. I think that part is something you need to remind yourself daily or have people, which I do, remind you daily. I try to remember where I came from. Small town. Junior college. Was a backup at Cal. Things have definitely changed. I have been blessed in a number of ways and enjoy my life. I think I feel good about where I'm at in my career and then also in my life that I'm going to live my life and deal with whatever comes and be comfortable. I think that's the biggest thing. … Now I'm settling into my place in this league and my place off the field."
Q: Is the scrutiny in the media and social media hard to deal with?
Rodgers: "It is if you give a lot of credence to some of the voices out there. Everybody has a platform now and has a voice. I do Twitter, I don't do Facebook or Instagram or any of those, so I don't see any of the experts on those social media apps. But I think you have to embrace it to a point. You don't have to give a lot to those opinions but you have to understand it comes with the territory. Like I said, that's one way I've settled into stardom if you will. It's not what I signed up for. I signed up to play football. But it comes with it. And you can either shun it and try and reject it and hide or you can just embrace it and say it's part of my life. It doesn't have to change the way you do it. It's just part of it now. So I'm going to embrace it to a point."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.