Aaron Rodgers rips 'smear attack,' denies Mark Murphy told him 'don't be the problem'
GREEN BAY – A week after an explosive Bleacher Report article alleged long-standing friction between him and his former head coach, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took issue with several details in a pointed radio interview that aired Monday on ESPN Wisconsin.
Rodgers, fresh off the first day of the Packers' spring program, told hosts Jason Wilde and Mark Tauscher he had several problems with the article written by former Packers beat reporter Tyler Dunne, including what he called “super-slanted opinions” and “outright lies” presented as fact.
“It’s not a mystery,” Rodgers said. "This was a smear attack by a writer looking to advance his career, talking to mostly irrelevant, bitter players who all have an agenda, whether they’re advancing their own careers or just trying to stir old stuff up. What happens is the same, tired media folks picking it up and talking about it, which just emphasizes their opinion about me already.
“The crazy thing is, there’s super-slanted opinions in that piece stated as fact, and then there’s quote-unquote facts that are just outright lies.”
In the 27-minute excerpt from the interview, Rodgers addressed several pieces of the article directly. Here are highlights of the conversation.
Bleacher Report, quoting an anonymous source, reported Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy told Rodgers “don’t be the problem” on a phone call informing him Matt LaFleur was being hired as the new head coach. Here’s what Rodgers said:
“It’s ridiculous. It is 100 percent, patently false. So it’s either he made that crap up, or what he would probably do as a writer is say, this is my source’s problem. He told me something. I talked to Mark last week, and I said, ‘Mark, did you tell somebody about the conversation?’ He goes, ‘That’s ridiculous.’ And I said, ‘Because that’s not what happened.’ And he told me, ‘Yeah, of course that’s not what happened.' We had a great conversation like we always do.’”
Rodgers on his relationship with Mike McCarthy:
“This idea that I had this grudge against him for years is absolutely ridiculous. It’s just not true. I mean, where was this grudge when we won the Super Bowl? Where was that grudge when we won 19 games in a row? Because I will tell you this about Mike, and if you look at the comments I’ve made about him over the years, I love Mike McCarthy. Mike has been a huge part of my success in my career, and I’ve had some amazing moments on and off the field with Mike. We have had issues, no doubt about it. Any long relationship has issues, but the way that we dealt with those issues, Mike and I, was face to face. We had conversations. Things didn’t fester for weeks, months, years. It’d be up in his office. It’d be after a Thursday night practice down in the big team room, it’d be in the quarterback room. It’d be at my house sometimes, it’d be at his house sometimes. We spent time together. We talked about things. Even at the most difficult moments, when I was stubborn about something, when he was stubborn about something, the conversation ended the same way every time. We came to an agreement and agreed to move forward on the same page.”
Rodgers on whether he holds a grudge over the 2005 NFL draft, when the 49ers (for whom McCarthy was serving as offensive coordinator) chose quarterback Alex Smith with the No. 1 pick while Rodgers slid down to the Packers at No. 24:
“Yeah, it irritated me, until we won a Super Bowl. And I won a couple MVPs. I mean, those chips are gone. You have to find new ways to motivate yourself. I’ve talked about on this show, in the locker room there many times, that as you get older, you have to find different ways to motivate yourself and different ways to inspire you. The whole, ‘Who we playing this week? Well, they passed on me in ’05.’ I don’t think like that. I’m good friends with Alex (Smith). I rejoice in his success. I pull for him every time when I play him. He’s a fantastic guy. I don’t have any animosity toward (former 49ers coach) Mike Nolan, the Niners organization, anybody that was there. I’m fortunate I’m here. I’ve been here, this is my 15th year. It’s the butterfly effect we’re talking about. If they picked me, who knows. Would I still be here at 35 living out my dream still getting to play? Probably not. So why should I have animosity toward a decision that happened that actually built character at a time I needed a little humility?"
DOUGHERTY: LaFleur signals how Rodgers must change
Rodgers, asked if he had any regrets over his relationship with McCarthy, pointed to his criticisms made last season after a win against the Buffalo Bills. Rodgers said he went up to McCarthy’s office first thing the next day, they talked for an hour, “and I apologized.” Here’s what else he said about that situation:
“I wish I hadn’t said anything after the Bills game last year. I wish I’d just gone to him in person. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to him, but I know how it came off. That’s what I told him when I met with him face to face.”
Rodgers said he did not like the frequent use of anonymous sources. He addressed recurrent criticisms from former teammate Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings:
“My first, initial thought is, at what point did J-Mike think I was a bad leader? It couldn’t have been when I was up in his room every Saturday night before the games, going over plays and talking about checks I was going to make and plays where he was going to be the No. 1 read. It couldn’t have been when I was at the hospital the night he broke his neck and spent a couple hours with him. It couldn’t have been when I followed up and saw how he was doing. So when did this happen where he’s like, ‘Oh, man, he’s not a natural-born leader.’ And with Greg, I don’t even know what to say with Greg. It bothers me that every time there’s an article, it’s the same two people. And if it’s not an article about me, do you ever hear their names anywhere else? Do you ever hear their names with people? Are they out there making comments, making the rounds on the shows? I would say probably not. Definitely not in the same capacity. So I would say, at what point do you move on? You talk about me being sensitive and petty? At what point do you move on or stop telling the same stories. Like, really, a conversation with Carlos Rogers on the field, making a joke about his situation, that’s what you’re going to hold onto? ‘Oh, yeah, I knew I wasn’t going to be a Packer the next season.’ It’s the same two people. It’s the same story. At some point, you have to have something else to talk about.”
Rodgers appealing to how Packers fans should remember McCarthy:
“I think it’s very important that we as Packers fans – because I was a fan long before I was a player – that we as Packers fans and Packer people, I think we need to honor Mike and respect him the right way. We had a hell of a run. We have 13 years, four NFC championships, one Super Bowl, eight straight playoffs, 19 straight wins. We did some incredible things. So instead of trashing this guy on the way out, let’s remember the amazing times we had together. Because Packers fans, remember this, especially those of you who live in Green Bay, Mike lives here. Mike has kids here. So Mike has to be here. Think about how difficult it is for him. so my favor that I would ask of you strongly is if you see Mike, shake his hand, tell him thanks for the memories, tell him thanks for the coaching job he did."t