GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday he doesn’t know how many more seasons he will play — admitting that the three-year, $150 million contract extension he signed in March shouldn’t be an indicator — but he knows where he will finish his career.
A year after he skipped the Green Bay Packers’ mandatory minicamp as part of his offseason of discontent with the organization, he was asked whether he planned to finish his career with the only team he has ever played for in the NFL. “Yes, definitely,” Rodgers said. That was in doubt as recently as March, when everything from retirement to asking for a trade was on the table.
Rodgers put any of that doubt to rest on Tuesday after the first practice of the Packers’ mandatory minicamp. He had previously skipped most of the voluntary offseason program to instead work out in Southern California. “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” Rodgers said with a smile, channeling his inner Marshawn Lynch.
He may have only been half joking. A source said that last June, after Rodgers skipped the mandatory minicamp, the team sent him a letter informing him that he would be fined for his absence.
Tuesday’s practice was his first chance to throw to newly acquired receivers Sammy Watkins (signed as a free agent) and 2022 draft picks Christian Watson (second round), Romeo Doubs (fourth round) and Samori Toure (seventh round). The only key member of the Packers’ offense not in attendance was receiver Allen Lazard, who has not yet signed his restricted free-agent contract.
“I miss the guys,” Rodgers said, “I love being around the guys. It’s been a nice offseason. I appreciate my [training] team back in Southern California and the work we put in. But it’s good to be back out here with the guys. Good to meet Christian and Romeo and get reacclimated with some of the older guys. It’s just about timing and them feeling the cadence and the urgency and stuff, and just nice to be back in the building with these people.
“They’ve been great about me taking care of myself the way I best need to. Obviously it’s worked out the last couple years by my play, and I expect nothing less.”
Packers coach Matt LaFleur initially wasn’t sure how much work he would give Rodgers on Tuesday, but after seeing that the reigning MVP was in good shape, he allowed Rodgers to take part in almost every drill, including some 11-on-11s that were at a jog-through speed.
“The more these guys can get around each other, the more they can learn each other, the quicker they can start to develop that chemistry that’s so important, that we know is so important in determining our success on the field,” LaFleur said. “So, I’m just excited that we’ve got him in the building with these young guys and we’ll see how he goes today.”
The Packers are coming off three straight 13-win seasons but failed to reach the Super Bowl in any of them, including two losses in the NFC Championship Game. And now Rodgers has to deal with life after Davante Adams, the All-Pro receiver who wanted out of Green Bay and was traded this offseason to the Las Vegas Raiders.
“The offense has to change,” Rodgers said. “Last year, when you have a guy who’s that talented, it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that 80% of the plays in the passing game were designed specifically for 17, so we’re obviously gonna do some things a little different.”
Rodgers is expected to practice again Wednesday and Thursday but said he will not stick around for the final OTAs next week. As for his future beyond this season, Rodgers said he’s only thinking one season at a time. He called his contract extension a series of one-year deals that were done in part to give the Packers significant salary-cap relief this season.
“If you say I’m for sure playing two more, three years and then you have a magical season that ends with a championship and think that that might be the best way to ride off, I don’t want to commit to something,” Rodgers said. “You say, I’m only playing one more year and you have a bitter taste in your mouth and still got the drive and the passion to play one or two more years, I just don’t want to get pigeonholed into it.
“So I’m focused on this season. I’m never gonna drag it out in the offseason. The conversations I’ve had with Brian have been very honest and direct, and that’s not going to change, and we’ll sit down after the season, hopefully after a championship and figure out what the next step is.”