- Covered Packers for Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1997-2013
- Two-time Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Emotional and exhausted. That’s how Aaron Rodgers said he felt after the Green Bay Packers’ 17-0 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the quarterback’s return from his 10-day absence because of COVID-19.
It won’t go down on any list of Rodgers’ greatest games, but he still walked off Lambeau Field on Sunday sounding satisfied and grateful, if not a little tired.
“A lot of emotions for sure,” Rodgers said. “Good to be back with the guys, good to be back at home, good to be on the field, really. The most emotions from the whole night was probably walking off the field after the game. It definitely got me a little misty. It was good to feel those types of emotions and good to be back with the guys.”
When asked why he got “misty” after the game, Rodgers said: “I just don’t take these things for granted, walking off the field as a winner. It’s fun beating that squad. We’ve had some battles over the years. Just walking out with [teammate] Preston [Smith], who I have so much love and appreciation for, and then hearing that type of response from the crowd — it was a little extra special today.”
It was only Rodgers’ second career win without a touchdown pass and at least one interception. He had previously been 1-5 in such games. He completed 23 of 37 passes for 292 yards. His interception came in the red zone on an un-Rodgers-like play, when he threw a ball up in desperation and was picked off in the end zone by Seahawks safety Jamal Adams. It was his second red zone interception of the season after not throwing any inside the 20-yard line all of last season.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur and the offensive staff did most of their game-planning with Rodgers virtually until Saturday, when he was allowed back at Lambeau Field. Rodgers technically did not practice all week, although the team typically holds a walk-through session the day before games.
“I wouldn’t say it was tough to game plan but you’re always wondering how it’s going to look on game day when you haven’t had any reps with him,” LaFleur said. “But we’ve got so much confidence in his ability to go out there and execute. I thought there were a lot of plays, for whatever reason, that didn’t quite work out.”
Rodgers conducted his postgame news conference via Zoom after the Packers were fined $300,000 last week in part because Rodgers broke the COVID protocol that requires unvaccinated players to speak to reporters either virtually, or in person while wearing a mask.
Rodgers did not say why he chose the virtual option on Sunday.
He also spoke in somewhat hushed tones when compared with his usual postgame manner following victories, prompting a question about whether he was happy.
“I’m happy; I’m just so tired,” Rodgers said. “It’s been a long, long 10 days … I felt great on the field, but it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been out there playing. So it was fun to be back out there and I’m excited for our guys, I really am.”
The Packers (8-2) still have two more games before their Week 13 bye.
Rodgers received both criticism and support for his comments on vaccinations and acknowledged last week that he might have misled the public about his vaccination status when he said on Aug. 26 that he had been “immunized.”
“Everybody has an opinion and I understand that it’s a very polarizing issue for some individuals but I’m just focusing on the support that I got and it was deep and wide, and greatly appreciated,” Rodgers said. “There’s always going to be criticism in this world. I don’t define myself by the criticism but I understand it’s a part of this because this issue is definitely polarizing. But again, I’m just so deeply grateful for all the people that reached out.”
Included among those who reached out, Rodgers said, were neighbors, teammates, coaches and even people in the organization. “Having a lot of the suits reach out and check on me was really, really special,” he said.
Rodgers is now cleared from the daily COVID testing for the next 90 days and also won’t be subjected to the five-day quarantine if he’s considered a close contact. Both are requirements of unvaccinated players.
However, he would return to those testing protocols and close contact rules during the off week between the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl, meaning Rodgers could be taken out if the Packers reached the Super Bowl.
“I don’t really like playing the what-if games,” Rodgers said. “So what I do know is I have more than two months right now where my protocol’s not testing every single day. So that’s kind of the only thing I’m thinking about. I don’t like playing the hypothetical game. Obviously, you’d love to be playing the second weekend in February and hopefully we’re in that position.”
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