Rodgers aiming high in 2015 and beyond
Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's all-time leader in passer rating by almost 10 points, and has won two NFL most valuable player awards and one Super Bowl.
He's probably about halfway or a little more through his NFL career and is on a pace that could place him among the top quarterbacks in NFL history.
But does he think he can do more than that and end his career as the best ever?
"Not with one Super Bowl win," Rodgers said Thursday after the Packers' OTA practice. "I think we're going to have to win a few more until I'm even talked about in that kind of context. So go win a couple and then figure out what you guys think."
Rodgers shared that among his many answers during an extended interview with Pete Dougherty during his annual offseason sit-down with Press-Gazette Media. The subjects ranged from his offseason training and life, to his take on this year's team, the changed duties on the coaching staff and play calling, his contract, Brett Favre, how his relationship with actress Olivia Munn has changed him, and more.
Q: From the end of the season to the start of the official offseason workout program in April, how do you train?
A: Usually the first month of the offseason I don't do any weightlifting. I like to kind of off-load my joints, I've felt that's helped me come back stronger. I just really give my body time to heal. The first month I just do yoga and stretching and core (workouts). Once that month is over — so this year starting at the end of February, I started getting back into my workouts. It's about three days a week for the first month and then four days a week from the end of March until we get back. That's incorporating the weights back in. This year was a little bit different weight-wise, I couldn't do a whole lot with my calf (injured late last season) until about the middle of March. So there was a lot of yoga. Golf when I felt up to it. And just kind of relaxing, core stuff for the first month. Once I got into my workouts, do that for a few hours a day and then find some travel time on the weekend or whatever my schedule makes possible.
Q: What's your lifestyle during that time? Do you travel a lot?
A: I definitely can. It's just making sure I put in the proper time working out. I don't do a ton of throwing in the offseason, I never felt like I needed to. It usually takes about a week to get my arm back in shape, so I throw a few times in the offseason and really work on flexibility in my shoulder. As far as traveling, just depends on when I can travel and it matches up with Olivia's schedule. Being in California is kind of enough of a vacation, the weather's so nice out there and the beach is close. So I don't do a whole lot of trips in the offseason anymore because it's such a long season you need a couple months just to unwind and relax.
Q: You say your calf is fully healed. How much did it affect your offseason training?
A: It did affect probably the first two weeks of when I get back more into heavy lifting. So I had to be smart about it and not push it too much. But I actually did a lot more legs this offseason than I had in the previous couple years, felt good about how I responded to those workouts. Don't do a ton of wind sprints. We do quick movements in our conditioning, but I don't run great lengths a whole lot in my job, so I try and match a lot of the movements that we do on the field with what we do in the offseason workouts. It responded well to all the stuff we did after I gave (the calf) a lot of time off.
Q: Do you beat Seattle in the NFC Championship game and then win the Super Bowl without the calf injury?
A: I don't look at it that way. We get there and hopefully win it if we just take care of business (against Seattle), everything that was in front of us. It was frustrating that the way I felt the week after — it would have been a week off — two weeks after our (Seattle) game was the Super Bowl, and I felt a lot better in those two weeks. I was thinking it would have been nice to be playing that day because my calf was feeling a lot better than it had the previous weeks. I think we still had a lot of opportunities to win (against the Seahawks). I don't look at it like, if my calf was healthy we win that game. I look at it like there were plays there to be made and we didn't make them.
Q: Is there legitimate reason to wonder if you and your teammates will suffer a hangover from a loss as devastating as giving up that 12-point lead in the final four minutes of the NFC Championship game?
A: I think it's more the opposite, the effect that it has. I think there can be a Super Bowl hangover, where you win it and come back and some teams have shown to be maybe not as hungry. We came back and won 13 in a row (after winning the Super Bowl in the 2010 season), but I don't think the (2011) team was as hungry as it had been the year before, or the focus wasn't as sharp. This (Seattle loss) can actually increase the focus. But when you pair that with the fact that it's really going to be a different team — you add new guys in the draft, you lose some veteran guys, and then the coaching changes we made, more in job responsibility, is going to make this football team look a lot different.
Q: You've had meetings and practices to adjust to the offseason changes in coaching staff duties. How do things seem different with coach Mike McCarthy handing over play calling to Tom Clements this year, and Edgar Bennett moving up to offensive coordinator in place of Clements?
A: I think it's going to work really well. Edgar has done a great job being in front of the (offensive meeting) room, being in more of a teaching role. Tom and I have had a good rapport for a long time as far as our communication. Alex (Van Pelt, the quarterbacks and receivers coach) has an expanded role, but (offensive quality control coach) Luke Getsy has been helping out a lot, I think he's very close to being a position coach on this team, which is a credit to him and his preparation and the way he sees the game. The biggest changes you see from practice are the defense, because Mike (McCarthy) has been over there with them. They look different, they sound different, and their scheme is a little different. They're doing some interesting things. I was joking that Mike was giving them our secrets, but I think he really has. He's told them some things offenses like to do. We've done some coaching swaps where some defensive coaches will talk to the offensive guys about what they think about and vice versa, but this is a full out secret sharing deal almost with what Mike has helped them with. It's really increased the football IQ of our team in that sense, because the defense is playing faster and doing more things to try to disguise what they're trying to do.
Q: It's easy to see how that would help the defense in practice against McCarthy's offense, but will it help against other teams?
A: I think it does, if they have the confidence to carry it over. Practice reps give you confidence you can do it in a game, but you have to have all 11 on the same page, and then kind of be unleashed out there. The offense has gone through a lot of changes in the years Mike's been the coach, and it's kind of going towards this creative input and easy, simple checks. The offensive line handling a lot of things, taking stuff off my plate. Quick adjustments, just playing very intelligent offensive football. And defenses are really trying to do a lot of the same things, obviously from a different standpoint, in reacting to what we're doing. If they can unleash what they've been doing, it's exciting to watch. It makes practices a lot more competitive.
Q: Back to the play calling, does it matter whether it's McCarthy or Clements calling the plays? Are you the de facto play caller now because of the latitude you have to change plays at the line of scrimmage?
A: I do have some freedom at the line of scrimmage, but I think most quarterbacks would say they love a good starting point. You'd like to not have to make as many checks, the lesser the checks the better. If you get a play call that fits the defense we're seeing, it makes your job a little easier, you don't have to do as much. The checks are ones that we like to talk about and prepare with them. It's about a rhythm with the play caller and the quarterback. Tom and I are going to have to find that rhythm.
Q: Can you tell at this time of year how good your team is? Does this look like a strong Super Bowl contender to you?
A: Every quarterback is going to say that their team has the talent to get to the Super Bowl at this point, every team is going to open training camp with some sort of (video) slide that that's the goal. That's what you're supposed to say. In reality there's probably half a dozen to a dozen teams that have an opportunity every year — the team and makeup to make a run. We've been in the mix for the last few years for sure. We think we have a talented team, but this will play out when we get the pads on. A lot of guys can look great in shorts and helmets, but we get the pads on and it's more of a live setting and we start to go against other teams in preseason, that's when your team starts to show you their potential.
Q: With all your starters back from an offense that led the NFL in scoring last season, do you think this can be one of the best offenses ever?
A: It could be a real good offense, but I just hope it's a winning offense. We had some pretty incredible halves last year, especially first halves, scoring a lot of points against good teams. That makes things a little easier on defense, maybe (the offense becomes) more one dimensional. Just a lot of fun when it goes like that. So we'd like to get back to doing that kind of stuff, but we need to have a balanced attack. The offensive line if they can stay healthy is going to be a big key for us, because they opened a lot of holes for Eddie (Lacy) and James (Starks) last year. We have the potential playmakers, I think they're really going to be dangerous when we put it all together. We'll see what happens with Ty (Montgomery, a receiver and third-round draft pick) in the mix. But I think (tight end) Andrew (Quarless) has had a really good offseason and (receiver) Davante (Adams), the two guys that have really jumped out. If those two guys can take an even bigger jump, Davante from Year 1 to Year 2, and Drew building off some of the stuff he finished with and being healthy this year and having more confidence, we're going to be a tough bunch to stop.
Q: What did you think of Tom Brady's punishment (four-game suspension, pending appeal) for Deflategate?
A: Four games jumps out as a lot because it's a quarter of the season. I didn't read the Wells report. You watch SportsCenter, there have been too many (NFL) cases in the last couple years that have been leads on SportsCenter, and that's unfortunate. I know it's going to appeal, and let's see what happens after that.
Q: Regardless of Brady's guilt or innocence, does deflating the balls below the prescribed psi limit affect the integrity of the game?
A: Peyton (Manning) a few years back, I believe he was one of the guys that talked to the rules committee about being able to use footballs we use in practice. That's important. But I think there should be a minimum level of inflation and maybe not a maximum level. A ball that's under-inflated you'd think would be easier to catch. I've heard some people say it's easier to hold when you're running with the football. I like a ball that's inflated to the high range of the legal limit, because I have big hands and a strong grip. I've voiced my frustrations about — obviously when we submit a ball it's within the range, and when we get the ball back on game day you can tell air has been taken out. That's frustrating. Why would we practice with footballs that aren't at the proper levels you're going to use in the game? That's my issue with that. I like a ball that's inflated to 13, 131/2 on the psi scale, because that's what I enjoy throwing with. But I think there should be a minimum.
Q: So you submit the balls before the day of the game?
A: I see them the day before the game in the morning, and then I don't see them until we go out there and get the first snap.
Q: Do you know what happens to them between those times?
A: I don't. I feel like they go in some trunk somewhere and the refs see 'em and that's the end.
Q: Is it realistic for the Packers to win two, three or four more Super Bowls with you at quarterback, like the Patriots have with Tom Brady (four wins)? Or is that asking too much?
A: I think it's the goal, and it's not asking too much, I don't think. The way our team is situated with re-signing Jordy (Nelson) last year, re-signing Randall (Cobb) this year, the offensive line together for at least two more years, Eddie (Lacy) being a young player, I don't see why there's any reason we shouldn't be in the mix in this window. Football is all about windows, and when you keep re-opening that window, that's exciting as a long-time member of this team. Wanting to be somebody that can keep playing for a number of years, that's exciting. You feel good that the window is still open. I've been on a couple teams where you show up to training camp and you're like, 'I'm not sure if we'll be in the mix.' I haven't felt that way for the last five or six years. Felt like we were a team that's going to be in the mix. That's an exciting feeling.
Q: Durability is a huge factor in trying to accomplish all these things, what's your sense of your own durability? (Rodgers missed 11/2 games in 2010 because of a concussion, seven games in 2013 because of a broken collarbone, and was hobbled at the end of the regular season through the playoffs last season because of the calf injury).
A: I don't (know) at this point. As you get older it's definitely more difficult to stay in shape, so it's going to be important to continue to find whatever rhythm in the offseason gets me in the best shape possible. I think we saw last year, I saw for sure, what being a pocket passer looks like. Felt pretty good about it, when the running is really out of it, being able to still make plays from the pocket and subtle (pocket) movements. That hopefully gives the team some faith that I can play past the years where my legs are as active and my athleticism is where it's been earlier in my career. If I can keep playing this way at least a few more years — four, five, six more years — and then get a couple as a little more of a pocket passer ...
Q: The new money/old money distinction is mainly an accounting gimmick when determining the value of NFL contract extensions. Going by a more standard definition — the amount of money the player makes from the time he signs a new contract or extension until it runs out — you're the NFL's third-highest paid quarterback ($18.7 million a year), behind Joe Flacco ($20.1 million) and Drew Brees ($20 million), and just ahead of Jay Cutler ($18 million), Cam Newton ($17.7 million), Ben Roethlisberger ($17.7 million), Tony Romo ($17.6 million) and Peyton Manning ($17 million). There's at least a chance Russell Wilson will surpass you this offseason, and Andrew Luck is likely to in the next year or two. Are you OK with your contract?
A: Both my agent and I felt like when we signed this deal (that) although the numbers are astronomical, we felt it was a deal (we and the Packers) were both happy with. I don't know if that happens all the time across the league. The team was happy the cap number never gets above $21 (million, actually, $21.1 million) I believe. I was happy because the money was unbelievable. I felt like it was a contract that I could play out without the worry most veterans have where you become a cap casualty because your number is so high, and in this league they're always looking to replace you with someone who is younger and less expensive. So we felt like this was a deal where, as the cap continues to grow over the next five years, my percentage of the cap stays at a level that they can handle and that I'd be very happy with.
Q: Many starting quarterback contracts are extended every few years, and yours takes a big salary jump (from $12.55 million to $19.8 million) in 2017. Do you think you'll renegotiate then, or before then, or not until the last year?
A: When I signed it I was definitely interested to see how I'd feel come the end of the contract. You'd think there will be some guys that will pass it up. You'd think Andrew Luck will be maybe a $25-million-a-year guy — some of these guys have come close to it as far as new money. But I think it's a deal we could play out and both sides will be happy with. A renegotiation would hinge on winning a couple more Super Bowls and winning a couple more MVPs. We'll see what happens.
Q: Do you talk to Brett Favre at all?
A: A little bit.
Q: His induction into the Packers Hall of Fame and number-retirement ceremony will be in Green Bay on July 18, a little more than a week before you report for training camp. Will you attend?
A: I'm not going to be here for that. I'll be here for Thanksgiving (for unveiling Favre's No. 4 on the Lambeau Field façade) though.
Q: Joe Montana and Steve Young have had a famously frosty relationship since they played together with the 49ers, so that dynamic might not be unusual between a Pro Football Hall of Fame-type incumbent quarterback and a highly regarded prospect in line to succeed him. What's your relationship like with Favre now?
A: We hadn't talked really at all until the NFL Honors (TV show in 2013). That was a big moment for a lot of people. It was fun to see him and reconnect, and also I hoped that would be a mini-catalyst for everybody kind of moving on and realizing that, 'Let's remember the great times and what he was able to accomplish here, and accomplish for this team. Let's realize he's going to be in the Packers Hall of Fame, the number retired, Pro Football Hall of Fame in a couple years. So let's start moving down the path.' He should be like all the other Packer greats and appreciated for the amazing times, and brought back into the family per se. I've talked to him a little bit over the last couple years, and I'm excited for him, and I'm sure he's really exciting about coming back and getting honored, and then coming back again for the Chicago game. He was going to come up last year, but then Bart (Starr) had some health issues. I was looking forward to the three of us being together.
Q: What did you learn good and bad from working with Favre for three seasons?
A: A lot just watching how he went about his business, his leadership style. When you're growing up and you're watching Pat Summerall and John Madden on TV, a lot of times they'd break down his footwork and a lot of people were, 'He throws off his back foot, his legs are all over the place.' In actuality he had phenomenal footwork. He kind of had to figure it out as far as timing his drop (back) with different route concepts and throwing from different platforms. He was excellent at listening to his body and feeling the different types of throws and how they affected the ball. He was really in tune with body mechanics. He'd maybe not talk about it like this way, but in his mind he understood this as well as anybody: if he was moving left, where to aim, if he was moving right, where to aim. How to throw off different platforms in the pocket, and then he always made sure his legs were out of the way so nobody was diving on him. I definitely picked up on that. And he brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the game. That was always appreciated by his teammates and coaches.
Q: You seem to be a little less private since you've been dating Olivia Munn. Have you changed that way?
A: I think so, yeah. It's been a lot of fun. Just getting older too. You kind of relax on some things where before you felt a certain way, trying to control a lot. At some point you kind of let go of a lot of that control and realize you're not going to be able to control different situations. So you can either let it drive you crazy or just go out there and enjoy life and do what you want to do and enjoy the person you're with. It's been fun. Being in L.A., it's a different lifestyle out there. But I'm just having a lot of fun with Olivia, and just a lot more comfortable with myself.
Q: Has she been a factor in that?
A: She's been a huge factor. She's very comfortable in her own skin. She's definitely made me see life differently and get to a lot more comfortable place with my celebrity.
— email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty