GREEN BAY, Wis. – The signs were everywhere this Sunday night, it was for Aaron Rodgers: he left Lambeau Field with his arm around his best friend Randall Cobb, he didn’t want to give away his game-worn jersey and he fought back on his emotions in the final moments of his post-match session with reporters.
Before anyone writes retirement papers or a trade deal, consider the other indicators that came after the Green Bay Packers’ 20-16 loss to the Detroit Lions: He did and said some of the same things after the exit of the Packers in the playoffs last season. And the season before.
This time, however, there will be no playoffs. All the Packers had to do was beat the Lions on Sunday night and they were in. Instead, they finished 8-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time in coach Matt LaFleur’s four seasons.
“At some point the carousel stops and it’s time to get off, and I think you kind of know when that is,” Rodgers said Sunday. “And that’s what you have to consider. Is it the time? And what is the organization doing? That’s also part of it. But the fire of competition will always be there. I don’t think it will ever go away. Sometimes it gets transferred, I think, to other things that may never fill that big void. But like I said, I feel good about what I’ve achieved in this league and I don’t I wouldn’t regret walking away. But I gotta see what it feels like once I walk away from it.”
Last offseason, Rodgers announced his decision to return on March 8. He signed a three-year, $150 million contract extension shortly thereafter. That deal contains a $58.3 million bonus plus more than $1 million in other guarantees if he plays in 2023. Rodgers insisted Sunday he could waive that money.
When asked what the determining factor would be, Rodgers replied, “It’s a feeling.” He then listed several things that could influence that sentiment.
“Do I feel like I have something left to prove to myself?” he said. “Do I want to go back and prepare for another grind? Or is it time? Is it time to walk away? Is it time for another voice to lead this team?
“I think I have to walk away and contemplate these things. They are real to me. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved in this league, but I’m also realistic and I understand where we are as a We’re a young team, there might be some changes with some of the older guys, and it might be time to walk away, but I might take a little time and say no, man, I have need to get back out there and do another run. But I’ll have to see how it feels once I get away from that.
Rodgers admitted his decision could also be influenced by the Packers bringing back players like Cobb, David Bakhtiari, Mason Crosby and Marcedes Lewis.
Although the organization has yet to tell Rodgers if it wants to, it has done so publicly. Last month, general manager Brian Gutekunst told reporters he wanted Rodgers back. LaFleur said he thinks the organization still feels the same way, even after one of Rodgers’ less productive seasons.
“Yeah, in my mind, absolutely,” LaFleur said. “But I think ultimately it’s up to him to decide.”
While Rodgers didn’t seem keen on playing for another team in case he wasn’t ready to retire, but the Packers wanted to move on to Jordan Love, he didn’t shut that door completely.
Rodgers’ last pitch of the season was intercepted by Lions safety Kerby Joseph with 3:27 left in the game. The Packers never got the ball back. It was Rodgers’ 12th interception of the season — second-most only to the 13 he threw in 2008, his first season as a starter. Joseph, who knocked out Rodgers twice in November’s game at Detroit, became the first player to knock him out three times in a single regular season.
Still, Rodgers had no doubt in his mind that he could still play at a high level, just as he had felt at this time last year, when he wrapped up his second straight season as League MVP. NFL and the fourth of his career.
“The answer is yes,” he said.
Still, Rodgers found life after wide receiver Davante Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in March for being a tough luge, even as the Packers drafted three wides in Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson and Samori Toure. Even so, Rodgers said there’s “a lot of good young talent in this squad. [and] if some guys jump from first to second year, that offense could be very different.”
Just like he did after the previous campaign, Rodgers said he wanted to walk away from the season and “take the emotion out of it”.
It’s something he did for most of his 20 minutes in the media auditorium on Sunday night.
Until the end.
That’s when he was asked, if that’s what he’ll miss the most. Rodgers paused for 10 seconds and said, “I’m gonna miss the guys. I’m gonna miss the fans.”
He stopped again, collected himself and said, “Yeah. Thanks.
And in another offseason of contemplation, he went.