Jul 28, 2021
Aaron Rodgers Press Conference Transcript: Staying with Packers, Mulled Retirement Amid Frustrations
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers held a news conference on July 28 discussing his decision to stay with the Packers. Rodgers expressed frustration with the Packers organization and said he considered retirement. Read the full transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Aaron, what was this all about for you?
Aaron Rodgers: (00:02)
I mean, that’s kind of a loaded question. I think there was a lot of things that transpired, this wasn’t a draft day thing. This started with a conversation in February at the season ending and I just expressed my desire to be more involved in conversations that directly affected my job.
Aaron Rodgers: (00:33)
Also, I wanted to help the organization maybe learn from them some of the mistakes in the past, in my opinion, about the way that some of the outgoing veterans were treated. And just the fact that we didn’t retain a number of players that I felt like were core players to our foundation, our locker room, high character guys.
Aaron Rodgers: (00:57)
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 Hayward, Micah Hyde. Guys who were exceptional players for us, but great locker room guys, high character guys. Many of them who 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 deserved.
Aaron Rodgers: (01:34)
And then it kind of progressed from there into a commitment for the 2021 season and beyond, that really wasn’t a 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, which 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.
Aaron Rodgers: (02:12)
You know, I’ve trained with a number of NFL guys. Most of my career, in the off seasons, my agency Athletes First has had a number of high draft picks over the years. I’ve tried to pass along information, hasn’t really been… Used, shall we say?
Aaron Rodgers: (02:34)
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 could win a championship here. And the fact that I haven’t been used in those discussions was one I wanted to change moving forward. I felt like based on my years, the way I can still play, that that should be a natural part of the conversation.
Aaron Rodgers: (03:05)
As that progressed from that point, nothing really changed on that front. So we got into March and the conversation changed. As I felt like, if you can’t commit to me past 2021, and I’m not a part of recruiting process in free agency… If I’m not a part of the future, then instead of letting me be a lame the quarterback, if you want to make a change and move forward, then go ahead and do it. That obviously didn’t happen. Like I said, it wasn’t a draft day thing. There were conversations for a number of months leading up to that.
Aaron Rodgers: (03:47)
Post the draft, I think what basically happened was then they said we’ll give you some money now, “Let’s see if we can throw some money at you.” I said from the start it wasn’t about the money. Obviously, I didn’t show up for the off season program or Minicamp. To me, it was bigger than this. It was about trying to be a resource for the organization that I care about and love so much.
Aaron Rodgers: (04:11)
So when the money came at me, the backstory of that is, after the season there was a part of me that did think that there would be a conversation about an extension. Based on my cap number this season, next season, it seemed natural based on where I played to at least to have a conversation about it.
Aaron Rodgers: (04:32)
There wasn’t a conversation, not until into May. And that to me seemed like an analogy that you guys understand. You guys have a fantastic year at 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, “Nah, let’s just see how it goes.”
Aaron Rodgers: (04:55)
A couple months down the line, you have another job opportunity, you go back to your boss and say, “Hey, I got this amazing job opportunity.” And they say, “Whoa, no, no, no. We love you. We do want you to stick around. We do care about you.” It just didn’t have the same feeling, you know?
Aaron Rodgers: (05:14)
So, 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. There were, obviously, some developments in the last week or so. But you know, I was really working on myself and my own mental state throughout the summer. And at various points deciding if I wanted to even keep playing.
Aaron Rodgers: (05:36)
But you know, the fire still burns and I wanted to be on a football team and we got some things figured out in the last few days and I’m here.
Speaker 2: (05:44)
Is this your last season?
Aaron Rodgers: (05:44)
Let’s go one at a time. You all will get a chance.
Speaker 3: (05:49)
Is the Randall Cobb move… Not that that’s the answer, but does it show you that there’s a step in the right project from the organization’s part, to listen to you and respect your thoughts on personnel?
Aaron Rodgers: (05:59)
Well, look, I’m really excited Randall’s coming back. He’s obviously a dear friend and the guy I still believe in that can really play. He falls into that category that I mentioned earlier, guys who left here who were high character guys. It’s the desire that I’ve talked about before, to finish as a Packer. That’s always been really important to me.
Aaron Rodgers: (06:19)
It’s important to those guys as well. The guys I mentioned, I talked to the majority of them this off season because I wanted to hear their experience and how they felt leaving the team and the way it went down, so I had all the information. And I think there’s a sadness underneath it all.
Aaron Rodgers: (06:33)
Obviously there’s a sadness when your career ends, but a sadness that things went down the way they went down for a team that they cared about and loved and put their bodies on the line for, for so many years. So to get Randall back is really special. It’s something that I talked about back in February, wanting to bring in a true slot receiver, I though that would make our offense more dynamic and I think Randall’s a dynamic player, he has been when he’s been healthy.
Speaker 4: (07:00)
Aaron, was there a point when over the last few months when you seriously considered retirement-
Aaron Rodgers: (07:04)
Speaker 4: (07:04)
That this might… And at what point did you change your mind and decide to actually come back?
Aaron Rodgers: (07:11)
Yeah, it was definitely something I thought about. I talked about how important being a full-timer was for a long time. This was the first time to spend the off season away without a COVID year or a lockout year, and I enjoyed it. I really did. I took the time working on myself and trying to better myself in a number of areas where I feel like I could improve based on my own patterns and conditioning.
Aaron Rodgers: (07:37)
And it there was a lot of growth, in that process, I continued to find joy and happiness and things off the field. However, there’s still a big competitive hole in my body that I need to fill. And 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 like I can give 100% to the team, then I should still play.
Speaker 5: (08:03)
[inaudible 00:08:03] next-
Aaron Rodgers: (08:03)
… to the team, then I should still play.
Speaker 6: (08:03)
Do you expect to be a Packer next year? What would it take for you to be one next year?
Aaron Rodgers: (08:06)
Yeah, I really don’t know. 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 going to 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.
Speaker 7: (08:32)
Aaron, you said many times and you reiterated it’s always been your goal to finish your career as a Packer. Do you hope that this progresses to a point where you feel all right with that moving forward? You said focus on this year, but do you still stand by what you said year after year, that you want to finish [inaudible 00:08:48].
Aaron Rodgers: (08:48)
I did. But as you recall, I said last year that there’s some things that might be out of my hands at this point. And based on the them drafting my replacement, [inaudible 00:09:01] last year, I think that kind of put things in motion. Based on the way the season went last year, there was nothing in last season that may be confident that I’d be back after ’21 and maybe even not after 2020. I thought we could progress some of those conversations with maybe a greater commitment during the off season. Like I said, that really didn’t happen, but that’s why I just have to focus on this season. I love this team. I love the fans and the opportunity to play on Lambeau Field has been a dream come true. It’ll be in my 17th season. It’s really special. I don’t take that for granted. I’m not a victim here at all. I just want to reiterate that.
Aaron Rodgers: (09:43)
I’ve been paid a ton of money by this organization. I’m so thankful to be a starter here for my 14th season. Not many guys have the opportunity to do that. I don’t feel like anything has been done to me. It’s a business. It’s an incredible opportunity to play this game. It’s a tough business too though, and this is part of it. So I totally get that point and that’s not lost on me. That’s why I’m just going to enjoy this season like I did last year, have the right perspective and then make decisions at the end of the season.
Speaker 8: (10:17)
You’re on a [inaudible 00:10:20]. I think it was 2018. Kirk Cousins had got his deal and Matthew got his deal [inaudible 00:10:28]. It’s going to come. Not concerned about the money. But I thought I remember you saying you [inaudible 00:10:36] force partnership. Is that accurate? Because it wasn’t long after that you got the deal. And then six months later on a Monday, they said they called them going… You said they called you on a golf cart, just said, “It’s Matt LaFleur. Why don’t you talk to him?” Is that the kind of thing you were talking about, and did it fade away after that?
Aaron Rodgers: (10:53)
Yeah. Well, I wouldn’t call that a partnership, that part of it. I mean, I wasn’t involved in those conversations at all. I had talked to Matt after the deal had already been in place to hire him as a coach. I wasn’t part of that conversation. Let’s just make that completely clear. I do love Matt and we’ve had a blast together and I’m glad he’s here, but it’s decisions like that that have happened over and over and over again that make me realize that the organization looks at me and my job as just to play. In my opinion, based on what I’ve accomplished in this league, the way I care about my teammates, the way I show up in the locker room, the way I lead, the way I conduct myself in the community. It should tie myself to a little bit more input. The rules are the same for most people, but every now and then there’s some outliers.
Aaron Rodgers: (11:45)
Guys who have been in the organization for 17 years and won a few MVPs where they can be in conversations at a different higher level. I’m not asking for anything that other great quarterbacks across the last few decades have not gotten. The opportunity to just be in conversation. So if you’re going to cut a guy who, based on a meritocracy, was our second best receiver in training camp last year for the majority of camp, maybe run it by me. See what I feel. I might be able to change your mind, but at least to be in a conversation makes you feel like you’re important and you’re respected. That’s what I tried to convey in February and for the first couple of months, but no, it hasn’t been that. That’s just the way they do it. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but objectively there’s been a lot of success here over the last 30 years. I just wanted to be a little bit more involved, and I understand that’s not the way it went.
Did you not get any of those… I mean, all these things are reasonable things to want to be. Any of these things… Did they give you anything or say anything like, “Yeah, we’re going to do this?” Or is it just the same as it always was?
Aaron Rodgers: (13:06)
I’m not sure, Rob, at this point. I can only say one of the things was to be involved in free agency. You just talked to Preston Smith, why he came here and why he actually took a pay cut to re sign. He knows that we’ve got an opportunity to win a championship when I’m playing. It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by other players across the league who hit me up that I’m friends with. They want to come or get traded or come to Green Bay. They want to be a part of an opportunity to win a championship. That’s why I just wanted to make myself available to have those conversations, to be maybe something that tips it over the edge if you’re trying to sign a specific guy. That wasn’t a part of [inaudible 00:13:51] at all.
Speaker 9: (13:51)
If they had shown security or given you some assurances ahead that you would be here for several years, how would they do that financially given their salary cap situation and not being in a situation where when you retire, they would be $70 million under the cap? How would you have done that?
Aaron Rodgers: (14:09)
That’s a good question, [inaudible 00:14:09]. I think there’s ways of doing that through signing bonuses and stuff that can lessen the load for sure. But there wasn’t a commitment past ’21. There was conversation that I know you guys were all talking about, about moving salary around through a restructure to open up some cap space for sure. Obviously with the salary cap going down from the 190s to 182, I think everybody’s contract or who had a contract basically got restructured in some way. It was more just the approach. To not mention anything past 2021 made me feel like that I wasn’t in the future plans, which again, I get it. It’s a business, and I’m not a victim here. I’ve made a ton of money here and I’ve been really fortunate to play a long time and to play here. At the same time, I’m still competitive and I still feel like I can play. I proved it last year. So I felt like making a commitment past 2021 season was not a big deal. And there are ways to do that that wasn’t necessarily accomplished. So that’s why we’re here.
Speaker 10: (15:24)
And you said back in March that the team… You basically came to the conclusion that, okay, if you’re not going to quit beyond this season, let’s just move on now. The Packers were very steadfast, both publicly and privately to other teams. We’re not trading him. Do you want to be here right now?
Aaron Rodgers: (15:42)
I do. I do. I love my teammates. I love the city. I love my coaches. It is a lot of fun to be back here. And like I said, I’m competitive and I realized the type of team that’s in place here. It’s a team that has a lot of talent on it. It’s been close the last couple of years. So I’m definitely excited about this season.
Aaron Rodgers: (16:03)
… couple years. So I’m definitely excited about this season. I’ve had a lot of great conversations over, I’d say, the last two weeks with the various teammates past and present, and this definitely refueled the fire to go out and lead and perform at my best. I felt really good today after a long hiatus just being back out there and feeling the rhythm and the timing and the accuracy was where I wanted it to be. So I feel really good about being back. It’s fun to see a lot of guys walk in the locker room. It’s strange after so many months, but it’s fun to see the guys, see the old guys, the trainers, the equipment staff. Andy Gruber, I just gave him a hug. I hadn’t seen him. He wasn’t here all last year. So there’s a lot of fun things about being back. And I understand the opportunity that’s here.
Speaker 4: (16:50)
Aaron, how would you characterize your relationship with [inaudible 00:16:53], where that is today. And was there ever a point in this off season where you asked for his removal from the show?
Aaron Rodgers: (17:00)
No, and I would say it’s professional at this point.
Speaker 7: (17:04)
Aaron, you mentioned here today, you strongly consider retirement [crosstalk 00:17:08]. You considered retirement this off season. For that to change in the last week, what transpired? And is it as simple as doing something, going out and getting Randall Cobb the proof that it’s not your words to get you back in play?
Aaron Rodgers: (17:25)
Yeah, I mean, it definitely was important to me. But again, there was conversations with some former teammates that I had. A lot of those guys I mentioned are retired and talking to them about retired life and picking their brains about what it looks like was good for me. Also, I wanted to see how my body responded after some of the intense training over the last couple of months and I felt really good.
Speaker 11: (17:50)
You talked about how that kind of fueled your fire, those conversations. Anything that stood out? I don’t know if there’s anything that you want to share?
Aaron Rodgers: (17:56)
No, I’m not going to share that.
Speaker 12: (17:57)
Hey Aaron. There’s been a lot here to digest, but one thing I’m not clear on, did you get the right to basically decide where you were going to play next year if you choose to play?
Aaron Rodgers: (18:09)
No, that’s not what I’ve been told or understand. No.
Speaker 13: (18:13)
Aaron, with all of these different reports that are coming out this off season, so many people speaking for you, what would you say is the biggest misconception about this entire process?
Aaron Rodgers: (18:22)
That the media loves to make stories when there’s not enough content to put out there. Look, I realize that there were times I could have said something, but I firmly believe that there is wisdom in silence. And also, I love this city and this organization, and I didn’t want to get into a pissing match with a team that’s employed me for 16 years, paid me a lot of money. I felt like handling things behind closed doors was the right way to do it. There were some leaks for sure. I can promise you, I didn’t have a part in any of those. My representation has assured me the same thing. I don’t know what benefit would be given to me by releasing any details about a restructured contract for me, but leaking stuff on draft day. I don’t understand the motivation behind that.
Aaron Rodgers: (19:22)
But look, I believe that the right way to do it was to have conversations with those people. Both in- person, zoom, on the phone, behind closed doors, as they say, and didn’t want to get into an argument in the public with a team that I really care about.
Speaker 14: (19:45)
Aaron, you mentioned this off season was different. How different was it not being at OTAs for the first time in 16 seasons. How did that benefit you?
Aaron Rodgers: (19:57)
How did that what?
Speaker 14: (19:57)
Aaron Rodgers: (19:57)
It was great. Look, like I said, I think it’s important that we work on our mental state. As you’ve seen with Simone Biles, I think there needs to be more conversation around that. We as athletes are often put on a pedestal that we’re beyond any mental hindrances or clutter. The only time that mental health often gets talked about is when it’s under the conversation of depression. I didn’t have any depression, but I have a ton of respect for people who speak out in those situations. For me, it was just about clearing any of the clutter. That’s what I tried to do this off season by adjusting some habits and spending time with my loved ones, traveling as safely and as often as I possibly could, and then making sure I was ready to go if I came back.
Speaker 15: (20:57)
We’re going to take two more from in here, and then we’re going to go to Zoom.
Speaker 9: (21:01)
Why do you want to be involved in some of these personnel decisions? On some of these you would have been wrong, I think. The guys didn’t have great years when they left here or they got a lot of money and it ended up being cap kits. If the Packers didn’t decide to move on from Favre, you wouldn’t have been here either, or you might not be standing where you are here. Why do you want to get involved in all that?
Aaron Rodgers: (21:25)
Well, I mean, I respect the question, [inaudible 00:21:28], and I think there’s a lot of hypotheticals based on different things. I understand that I’m here because Ted Thompson took a shot on me, but also can’t compare the two situations. When you look at the last years of Favre’s career here and compare them to mine, especially leading up to 2005, it was a different situation. When it comes to personnel stuff, it’s not all personnel stuff that I’m talking about. I just want to be involved in conversations that affect my ability to do my job. And it’s not all personnel.
Aaron Rodgers: (21:56)
But I think I have a unique perspective being in a locker room and having been the starter here for 13 years and being here for 16 years. There’s not many people who’ve been in a position of influence longer than I have in this building. So it gives me a unique perspective to shed light on how things work together. One of the most important things is chemistry and cohesion in an organization. I think I can offer an interesting perspective. It’s not where I need to have final say on anything. I never asked for that. I just want to be in a conversation. I’m interested in how they look at certain players and if they value character, if they value chemistry, if they value what they bring to the locker room.
Aaron Rodgers: (22:34)
I think, yeah, some of those guys might not have had a great seasons other places, but it’s different when a Jordy Nelson has got me throwing him the ball. It’s different when Randall Cobb’s got me throwing the ball. It’s maybe a different motivation when some of these guys go elsewhere. It is different to move to a new team. Yeah, some of those decisions would have been different, but maybe bring back a JP for $3 million in a one-year deal when he really desperately wanted to retire as a Packer. It might’ve been a good thing to do. And maybe letting Jordy play another season here. Who knows what would’ve happened? Him mentoring Tay and allowing him to take the mantle of the number one receiver and how the locker room could see that humility and be inspired by it.
Aaron Rodgers: (23:18)
I think that’s often not given enough credence is how important that is, veterans leading by example, by their attitude, how to conduct themselves and how they show the younger guys how to be a professional. And to me, that’s worth something. It might not be worth nine million a year as Jordy was scheduled to make that season, but he was willing to take a pay cut. Way down. I think it would have been worth it to keep guys like that. Or Charles Woodson. Charles wanted to take a pay cut as well to stick around. He obviously still played at a high level when he left. He made a Pro Bowl in Oakland and not to mention, 70% Charles Woodson is-
Aaron Rodgers: (24:02)
70% Charles Woodson is an incredible player for us. Just what he brings from a leadership standpoint, from professionalism, toughness, being able to be a part of conversations like that. I feel like I have a unique perspective.
Speaker 16: (24:17)
Aaron, what do you hope changes out of all this, whether it is cultural within the organization, letting players know how they should be treated? Do you hope to inflict some sort of change or difference that’s bigger than you?
Aaron Rodgers: (24:30)
I mean, I wouldn’t say inflict. I don’t know if that’s the right word I want to use. Inspire? Like I said just a moment ago, I do have a unique perspective on things and I’ve been around a long time. And as I’ve talked to some other older players around the league, I think this is how it goes. You get a little bit older. You see some of dysfunction organizations and you either move on or try and help foster some change. And that’s all I wanted to do because I love this organization. And I love being a Packer and I’ve enjoyed my time here, but I can be used as a pseudo consultant because I know this place. I know this building. I know the people that work here. I know what helps it go. And when you’re a quarterback, you hear a lot of [inaudible 00:25:21]. You hear it from what’s going on around the building. And it gives you the ability to see things as they are, and to help foster a culture of inclusion and cohesion and connectedness that helps you win.
Aaron Rodgers: (25:39)
Because as I said, it’s the people that win championships. It’s the coaches. It’s the players that win championships. And the organization, everybody in the organization benefits from that. And we all win together, but it’s the people that get it done. And I just want to be a part of people decisions.
Speaker 17: (26:02)
If you can inspire that change in the culture, do you see a path where you can still finish your career playing only for the Packers? And if you can see that change, do you want to still play your entire career here, if you can see that?
Aaron Rodgers: (26:17)
Yeah. That’s a tough question to ask, to answer. That’s a good question. I’m definitely not closing the door on anything. I’m always optimistic in the ability to change. I would never want anybody to give up on me. And I feel like I’ve made a lot of changes over the years to try and improve myself both as a person, as a teammate, as a player. And I’m always going to be optimistic in change being possible. But Darren Perry said a quote one time, which has always stuck with me. And he said, “You can’t motivate people, but you can inspire people.” And true motivation ultimately comes from within. So people have to be willing to make those changes.
Speaker 8: (27:09)
Aaron, going from semi-retirement to being all in for the season seems like a big step to you. I was just going to say, am I overstating that? Or, you’re making it sound easy. Is it possible you may dress out?
Aaron Rodgers: (27:23)
Yeah, I don’t want to over-blow it. I definitely took my mind to that scenario and sat with those feelings and what it would feel like and what that would look like, all the while working out. I mean, as you saw on Dave’s Instagram, I was obviously still working out and proactive and getting ready to play, but there were things I needed to do and conversations I needed to have to put myself in the right head space to be ab;e to come back here and to be a hundred percent in, which my teammates, the organization expects. And I expect it myself. And I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t a hundred percent all in.
Speaker 18: (28:04)
All right, we’re going to have to take a couple from Zoom to finish this up. Go ahead, Sarah.
We’ll start with with Tim VanBoren.
Tim VanBoren: (28:13)
Hey, Aaron. You’ve talked about this today and you’ve spoken very eloquently, obviously in the past. With all going on, and said and done to this point, as we sit here in late July, 2021, what does it mean to you to be the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers?
Aaron Rodgers: (28:30)
Well, Tim, it’s still an honor. It’s still something I’m very proud of. I did see something about Favre and Bart playing 16 here. And this is obviously number 17. So there’s something special about that. I’ve been here a long time. I’ve seen a lot of change in personnel and people and the building and the fields and the hall of fame and pro shop and cafeteria twice, weight room. It’s been fun to be a part of the change. A lot of times, like at Cal, you move on and then everything gets better. It’s been fun to see the facilities and everything get better and be able to be the quarterback here. And see the south and north end zones, the way they got built up and adding 8,000 fans at Lambeau. It’s been fun to be a part of all the growth in those things. Yeah, this has always been a special thing for me to be the quarterback here. And I’m really thankful to be back here for the 14th season of the story.
Chris Rolf: (29:35)
Hey, Aaron, there’s going to be this perception now that every time a roster decision is made, how much input or kind of input did you have? How much responsibility is on you to try to keep that distraction to a minimum so that it doesn’t fester all season long and maybe distract this team from its goal?
Aaron Rodgers: (29:58)
Chris, I don’t see that as a distraction because I don’t expect to be a part of those discussions. So I’m happy that Randall Cobb is here. And that’s definitely something that I was hoping would happen, but I don’t see that being a distraction.
And last one from Zoom, Lance Allen.
Lance Allen: (30:19)
Aaron, you mentioned the key word chemistry and you know as well as anybody that you’ve got to bond with the guys in the locker room. And some call football the ultimate team game. How do you bond with guys? A lot of guys have your back. But how do you prevent it from being an us versus them mentality in the front office, and just go about your business and accomplish your goal?
Aaron Rodgers: (30:41)
Well, I think there’s, as I’ve seen over the last 16 years, there’s different things that motivate guys. I think expiring contracts is definitely one of them. I think you’ve seen it many, many times over the years. Guys come into a contract year and they show up a little bit different. Body little different, focus a little bit different. So I’m not worried about those guys who have contracts that run out. Guys like MBS and obviously Devontae and Bobby Tunyan and some of those guys who have in the last year of their deal. I know they’ll be motivated. It’s just, it’s about the staff and the players getting ready to be ready for a season here. I think in 47 days or so playing a game. So this is what training camp’s all about. And we’ll get after it the best we can.