Aaron Rodgers says he considered retirement during Packers standoff, wanted more say in team decisions

Aaron Rodgers ended his standoff with the Packers by reporting to camp Tuesday and followed it with a doozy of a press conference Wednesday.

While most notable public figures save their tell-all moments for their book deals or exclusive sit-down interviews, Rodgers generously spilled the seeds of his discontent during his first meeting with media members during training camp. The reigning AP NFL Most Valuable Player was remarkably candid, spending more than five minutes answering the opening question posed to him by NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and including the names of a dozen former teammates he felt hadn't been treated properly on their way out of Green Bay.

Rodgers made one thing painstakingly clear: He's not a fan of how the Packers' front office operates. The quarterback chose his words carefully, telling reporters he loves everyone -- his teammates, coaches, the city, Packers fans -- but avoided directly mentioning the organization. And when Pelissero simply asked him what Rodgers' offseason standoff was all about, it didn't take Rodgers long to launch into a bevy of examples of how the front office has irritated him well before 2021.

"I think it was a lot of things that transpired. This wasn't a draft day thing," Rodgers said, referring to the initial reports of his discontent. "Started the conversation in February after the season ended and I just expressed my desire to be more involved in conversations that directly affected my job.

"Also, I wanted to help the organization maybe learn from some of the mistakes in the past, in my opinion, about the way some of the outgoing veterans were treated and just the fact that we didn't retain a number of players that I feel like were core players to our foundation, our locker room. High character guys, I'm talking about Charles Woodson, Jordy Nelson, Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, James Jones, John Kuhn, Brett Goode, TJ Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Casey Heyward, Micah Hyde. Guys who were exceptional players for us, great locker room guys, high character guys, many of them whom weren't offered a contract at all or were extremely low-balled or were maybe, in my opinion, not given the respect on the way out that guys of their status and stature and high character deserve. And, then it kind of progressed from there into a commitment for the 2021 season and beyond, that really wasn't given at any time.

"So, for me, I had to assess the situation. Not necessarily wanting to be a lame duck quarterback, especially after an MVP season, as I think you can understand. And then, the other part, in February was wanting to be a part of conversations involving free agents which has never happened in my career. ... I've tried to pass along information, hasn't really been used, shall we say? So, I wanted to offer my services as a recruiter.

"I think we can all understand Green Bay isn't a huge vacation destination. People are coming here to play with me, to play with our team and knowing that they can win a championship here and the fact that I haven't been used in those discussions is what I wanted to change moving forward. And I felt like based on my years, the way I can still play, that that should be a natural part of the conversation."

The lack of commitment to Rodgers was central to the narrative surrounding him in the spring and summer, and he didn't dance around discussing the matter Wednesday. It wasn't about money, the QB said, but instead was much more about the team moving forward with Rodgers as a key figure in Green Bay's future. Rodgers said he hadn't been involved or invited to give his opinion on the on-field direction of the franchise, and he wasn't certain he was even wanted in Green Bay beyond 2021.

All of this followed an elite season from Rodgers, one in which he won the league's MVP. He felt as if the Packers were slowly closing the door on his time in Green Bay, and he wanted control of his situation, especially after seeing so many beloved teammates lose control of their own situations and essentially left behind.

In Rodgers' words, "if you want to make a change and move forward, then go ahead and do it."

"Obviously, I didn't show up for the offseason program or minicamp; to me, it was bigger than this," Rodgers explained. "It was about trying to be a resource for the organization that I care about and love so much."

Green Bay came to Rodgers with an offer than included a monetary increase, but as the quarterback said, that's not quite what he was pursuing. The green worn by the Packers meant more to him than the green on a dollar bill. This was about taking care of a franchise that has been an essential part of Rodgers' professional identity.

"So, when the money came at me, the backstory to that is, after the season, there was a part of me that did think that there would be conversation about an extension, based on my cap number this season, next season," Rodgers continued. "It seemed natural based on the way I played to at least have a conversation about it. There wasn't a conversation, not until into May.

"And that to me seemed like, an analogy that you guys would understand: you guys have a fantastic year of work, you write some great stories, you go to your boss and say, 'I just had an incredible year. I think I deserve a pay raise or some security.' And the boss says, 'Ehh, let's just see how it goes.' A couple months down the line, you get another job opportunity, you go back to your boss and say, 'Hey, I got this amazing job opportunity.' They say, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, no, no, no, we love you. We do want you to stick around. We do care about you.' Just probably the same feeling.

"I said it wasn't about the money and the way that felt kind of just doubled down on that. Nothing really changed throughout the summer. Obviously, there were some developments in the last week or so but I was really working on myself and my own mental state throughout the summer. At various points, deciding if I wanted to even keep playing but the fire still burns and I wanted to be on the football team. We got some things figured out in the last few days and I'm here."

Part of what was figured out was a plan to acquire Rodgers' old running mate, Randall Cobb, from the Houston Texans. The quarterback couldn't rectify what Rodgers perceived as mistakes made by the Packers with the departures of past teammates, but he could at least use his leverage to make things right with Cobb.

They're adding a player Rodgers knows well, a "true slot receiver" who can help the Packers immediately. After all, the immediate future is what matters most to Rodgers, who said he didn't gain the right to decide where he'll play in 2022 with recent negotiations with the Packers, but expressed a desire to stay in Green Bay.

For a period of time this offseason, Rodgers wasn't sure he even wanted to play football anymore. He was so disenchanted by the state of the Packers, he revealed Wednesday he'd seriously considered retiring.

"Yeah, it was definitely something I thought about," Rodgers said. "I talked about how important being a full-timer was for a long time. This is a first time to spend the offseason away without a COVID year or a lockout year, and I enjoyed it. I really did. I took time working on myself and trying to better myself in a number of areas where I feel like I can improve based on my own patterns and conditioning and it was a lot of growth. In that process, I continued to find joy and happiness in things off the field.

"However, there is still a big, competitive hole in my body that I need to fill. As I got back into my workouts, I just realized that I know I can still play and I want to still play and as long as I feel I can give 100 percent to the team, then I should still play."

Rodgers will play in 2021, but if the QB told us anything with his revelatory Wednesday media session, it's that the divide between him and Packers management still exists rather prominently. He made sure to emphasize he is "not a victim here at all."

"I just want to reiterate that," Rodgers said. "I've been paid a lot of money."

Rodgers just wants the organization to value him as he feels it should through actions, not just dollars.

For now, he and his teammates will begin to prepare for another season with high expectations. Beyond that exists more than one massive question mark wearing No. 12.

"I really don't know," Rodgers said when asked if he expects to be a Packer in 2022. "I mean, I think things are ... in that direction, haven't really changed at all. I think I'm just going to focus on this year. There's a lot of moving pieces besides myself -- expiring contracts for a number of guys, so there's gonna be a lot of tough decisions at the end of the year.

"I'm just going to enjoy this year and then revisit that conversation at the end of the season."

Other points of note from Rodgers' in-depth presser Wednesday:

  • Rodgers was asked why he kept quiet during his prolonged standoff, and responded with a simple explanation: He didn't want to drag the name of a franchise he loves dearly in a public forum. "I didn't want to get into a (public) pissing match with a team that has employed me for 16 years and paid me a lot of money," Rodgers said. "There were some leaks, for sure. I can promise you I didn't have a part in those."
  • With the dust at least settled for now on the matter, Rodgers was asked about the state of his relationship with Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst. "I would say it's professional at this point," Rodgers replied.
  • Rodgers was asked if he realizes he might have made the wrong decision on the futures of a few former teammates who made more money elsewhere than they were offered by the Packers. He replied by producing some anecdotal evidence in regards to former teammates he'd previously mentioned -- Charles Woodson and Jordy Nelson, for example -- citing offers he considered to be lowballs and suggesting the players in question would have happily taken pay cuts to stay in Green Bay. Instead, Rodgers said, they were cast aside as the organization moved forward, wasting room Rodgers believes existed to more gracefully handle such situations. Rodgers said he'd like more input on such matters going forward to help alleviate the pain often incurred in these divorces.
  • On multiple occasions, Rodgers emphasized the importance of individuals in the club's collective effort to win championships. With this in mind, he responded to a question about how he feels about still being the Packers' quarterback by expressing gratitude. "It's the people that win championships," Rodgers said. "I just want to be a part of people decisions."
  • "It's still an honor. It's still something I've very proud of," Rodgers said of being with the Packers for what will be his 17th season. "I've been here a long time. I've seen a lot of change. ... It's been fun to be a part of all the growth. This has always been a special thing to be the quarterback here, and I'm really thankful."

Training camp is finally here! Be sure to check out NFL Network's extensive live coverage, including Inside Training Camp every day and highlighted by Training Camp: Back Together Saturday Fueled by Gatorade on July 31.

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