The N.F.L.’s most valuable player did not attend the first day of Green Bay’s mandatory minicamp, raising the stakes in his dispute with the team.
Aaron Rodgers has been the starting quarterback and the primary face of the Green Bay Packers for 13 years. But over the past year or so, his cozy link to the team and its city has looked threatened.
On Tuesday, Rodgers, 37, failed to appear for a mandatory minicamp, upping the ante on his dispute with the team about his future in Green Bay. He faces a fine in the $100,000 range for his decision.
It’s the latest in the ongoing fracas between Rodgers, the N.F.L.’s reigning most valuable player, and the Packers, one of the league’s most storied franchises and his N.F.L. home since the team drafted him in 2005.
Here’s what has happened to produce the stalemate and how it could end.
Jan. 7, 2019: A change at the top
The Packers hire Matt LaFleur as head coach. The consensus is that this will provide a fresh start for Rodgers in Green Bay, since he reportedly clashed often with the former coach, Mike McCarthy. Rodgers had been seen mouthing criticism of McCarthy’s sometimes timid calls on the sideline.
April 23, 2020: An un-elated Rodgers
Heading into the 2020 draft, Rodgers — in charge of directing and executing Green Bay’s passing game — decides that the Packers are in need of receivers. On draft day, when the team traded up to the 26th pick in the first round, he later tells a reporter, he “perked up” only to see his team select … a quarterback, Jordan Love of Utah State.
By all accounts, Rodgers is not happy.
“I was definitely surprised,” he told NFL Media last July. Noting that he had recently become a tequila aficionado, Rodgers adds, “I went to the pantry, I poured myself about four fingers and I knew it was going to be one of those nights where people start calling.”
“I wasn’t elated by the pick,” he says, leaving no doubt.
Rodgers has been known to quietly dispute team decisions over the years, including the choice of wide receivers and the coaching staff’s play-calling. There is a sense that he feels that the team should have won more than just one Super Bowl during his tenure.
(A warning: Much of Rodgers’s discontent has been reported through unnamed sources. He has seldom spoken publicly of any dissatisfaction on the record.)
Jan. 24, 2021: Another great year, individually
After a 13-3 season, hopes are high that Green Bay would make the Super Bowl, or win it. But playing at home, the Packers lose the N.F.C. Championship game, 31-26, to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With two minutes left in the game, and the Packers at the Bucs 8-yard line and trailing by 8 points, LaFleur chooses to kick a field goal. The decision is much criticized because the Packers never get the ball back. After the game, Rodgers repeats, “It wasn’t my decision.”
The Buccaneers go on to win the Super Bowl as Rodgers looks back on yet another stellar season in which he won his third M.V.P. Award and led the league in passing touchdowns and passer rating. As the third-stringer, Love is never active on a game day.
April 16: A second career?
Rodgers completes a two-week stint as guest host of “Jeopardy!”
“It would be a dream job for sure, and I’m not shy at all about saying I want the job,” he tells The Ringer. He adds that because of the show’s shooting schedule, he could do the job even while he continues playing in the N.F.L.
But he still can’t escape the Packers, or second-guessing. In one memorable moment, a contestant who didn’t know the answer to a final Jeopardy question writes, “Who wanted to kick that field goal?”
Rodgers responds with a wry grin.
“That is a great question,” he jokes.
April 29: Rumbles get louder
The news from the first round of the N.F.L. draft is almost overshadowed by another Rodgers update: ESPN reports that he now wants out of Green Bay.
“We are committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond,” General Manager Brian Gutekunst responds.
Meanwhile, the Packers draft a cornerback in the first round and don’t take a receiver until Round 3. But at least they don’t draft another quarterback.
May 24: M.I.A. at O.T.A.s
Rodgers skips the Packers’ organized team activities (O.T.A.s). While the workouts are technically voluntary, Rodgers was scheduled to receive a half-million-dollar bonus for attending, which he forfeits.
So what’s next?
Quite a few teams would welcome an M.V.P.-winning quarterback, even one in his late 30s. The Broncos (Drew Lock) and the Raiders (Derek Carr) are two of the teams that would see Rodgers as an upgrade. And though it seems unlikely that the Packers would trade Rodgers, moving him became a more affordable option after June 1. Before that date, the team would have faced $38.356 million in dead money on its salary cap for the 2021 season if Rodgers departed. If he goes now, that money can be spread between the 2021 and 2022 salary caps.
Rodgers also could retire. Or all the sound and fury could signify nothing, and he could be back under center in Green Bay by Sept. 12, when the Packers will be in New Orleans to play the Saints in Week 1.
At least one date is booked: On July 6, he will team with the golfer Bryson DeChambeau to take on Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in a made-for-TV match.
Beyond that, who knows? The next date to watch after that will be July 27, when the Packers officially begin training camp.
Source: Football - nytimes.com