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Aaron Rodgers understands Cowboys' 'infatuation' with Mike McCarthy

GREEN BAY - Aaron Rodgers said he was surprised to see Mike McCarthy hired as the next Dallas Cowboys head coach — but not that surprised.

Given his 8-3 record against the Cowboys, including a pair of NFC divisional playoff wins in 2014 and 2016, Rodgers said it was easy to understand why owner Jerry Jones would be enticed to hire McCarthy.

“We’ve had a lot of success down there,” Rodgers said, “and I think that was probably one of the reasons. We obviously won the Super Bowl there (in the 2010 season against the Pittsburgh Steelers at AT&T Stadium), but we won some big games down there over the years. So I’m not surprised that Jerry had an infatuation with Mike, because we’ve had some really good performances.”

There was one aspect of the job that surprised Rodgers, he said.

New Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy answers questions during a news conference at Ford Center at the Star.

It’s unclear how much influence McCarthy will have on the roster, but Jones clearly runs the show in Dallas. Nothing happens without clearing through him. Which would seem to provide McCarthy a clear lane that does not involve player acquisition.

“I don’t know,” Rodgers said. “I thought maybe he would go somewhere where he had maybe some GM opportunity as well, but I’m happy for him.”

McCarthy was introduced as the Cowboys' head coach Wednesday. He carries his résumé of 125 wins with the Packers, not including his 10-8 postseason record, into one of the NFL’s premier coaching jobs.

The hire ended McCarthy’s one-year sabbatical from the game. He has not coached since being fired hours after the Packers’ home loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 2, 2018.

Rodgers said he sent his former coach a text after hearing the news Monday, and McCarty sent a text back. He also said nobody from the Cowboys contacted him about McCarthy before making the hire.

The Packers will not play the Cowboys in 2020. Rodgers smiled when asked if he might do some politicking behind the scenes this offseason for the Packers and Cowboys to schedule a preseason game.

“That’d be awesome,” he said. “It’d be great to maybe spend a week out there, get out to California. I wouldn’t mind that. I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. They’d have to come to us, but I think we’re definitely in store for some more joint practices.”

Rodgers relishes return to playoffs

Rodgers hasn’t played in a playoff game in three years. It might not seem like that long, given the length of a career.

For Rodgers, it was plenty long enough.

At this stage in his career, Rodgers knows the opportunities he’ll see in Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks are increasingly rare. He doesn’t know how many more he’ll get, only that he needs to maximize however many are left.

Yes, Rodgers said, entering a playoff game against the Seahawks feels differently than the last time he met Seattle in the postseason, during that 2014 NFC championship game.

“When I was 31,” Rodgers said, “I thought I was going to play into my 40s, and that was still a decade away. And now I’m 36, so now we’re a half decade away.”

Rodgers’ hunt for that elusive second Super Bowl spanned all of last decade. After the Packers won a championship in the 2010 season, there were close calls. Twice, they bowed out in the NFC championship game, including their collapse in Seattle five years ago.

On the back end of his career, winning another Lombardi Trophy is what drives him.

“It’s on my mind every day,” Rodgers said. “That’s why we play the game. That’s why you put in the time in the offseason. That’s why you do the little things. It’s to put yourself in this position, where we’re two games away from being able to compete for that. I’m 36, I know what this is all about.

“This is an important opportunity for us. I feel like I’ve got a lot of really good years left, but you never know. A lot of things happen year to year. We’ve had some great teams that have been an injury away or a play away from being special. So I want to make the most of this opportunity.”

Over the flu

It’s a good thing the Packers had a postseason bye week.

A team blessed with extraordinary health all season, the Packers spent their weekend away from football dealing with the flu. Left tackle David Bakhtiari had it last week. Rookie left guard Elgton Jenkins dealt with it this past weekend. They had plenty of company.

“It’s a lot of people,” Jenkins said. “It was more than them that had it. So you really can’t say who to point fingers at.

“I’m just happy that it’s over, got past that and ready to ball.”

It could have been a problem if the Packers had been forced to play an NFC wild-card playoff game through the flu. Now, it does seem as though the roster is returning to health.

Jenkins returned to practice Wednesday after his illness forced him to miss Monday’s walkthrough. Running back Dexter Williams was out with an illness, but nobody else was listed with an illness.

“I think most of the guys are pretty healthy right now,” LaFleur said.

Playoff mindset

Asked about his playoff experience, tackle Bryan Bulaga said his message to those who haven’t played in the postseason is to remember the very next play is the most important.

Bulaga said the way these games go, any lapse in attention can shift the advantage to the opponent and it’s critical that mistakes are corrected immediately so they don’t continue.

"The momentum shifts in playoffs are like nothing else,” said Bulaga, who no longer is in the concussion protocol. “You get everything going your way and then all of a sudden one play happens and everything swings. Just making sure you’re continuing to relay to the guys that it’s not just, ‘Oh, that happened, let’s move on.’

“You have to make sure you’re dialed in every snap and ready to go every snap.”

Seahawks line battered

In a conference call Wednesday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said his offensive line has played as though it has been together all season long.

However, the unit didn’t practice that way.

Four starters sat out of practice because of injury: tackle Duane Brown (knee), guard Mike Iupati (neck), tackle George Fant (groin) and center Joey Hunt (fibula). Brown and Iupati did not play against Philadelphia in the wild-card round, and Fant and Hunt being sidelined doesn’t help matters.

The Seahawks promoted tackle Chad Wheeler from the practice squad to help shore up the line position.