Aaron Rodgers is as good as he has ever been. The 37-year-old Green Bay Packers quarterback turned in an MVP-caliber season, and on Saturday he’ll be trying to lead his team past the Los Angeles Rams and into the next round of the playoffs.
Rodgers knows that he won’t play forever. There are more games behind him than in front of him now, which is why he’s trying to enjoy everything he’s doing.
"I've really tried to savor every moment this year and enjoy the heck out of everything, like just hearing the sounds and feeling the interactions in the locker room and just enjoying those moments," Rodgers told NFL.com in a recent interview. "It's not necessarily, 'Look, this is my last year in Green Bay,' but I know that my time in the league is way closer to the end than the beginning, and I just want to really savor all the things that make our game what it is, and the experience what it is.”
It’s more than just the games that Rodgers is trying to savor. It’s every moment with his teammates, which he knows he’s going to miss when he finally moves on.
"It's so much more than just playing on Sundays or Mondays or Thursdays — or Saturdays, as we did this year. It's the joking in the locker room, it's the banter, it's the meaningful conversations, side conversations in practice — special things that a lot of people don't get to see, that you're going to think about when it's all said and done.”
Quarantined offseason helped him come to terms with future
Knowing and accepting that he’s approaching the end of his career is a healthy attitude, but it took awhile for Rodgers to get there. With the COVID-19 pandemic making it impossible for him to do any traveling last offseason, he decided to spend that time on himself. He read, he meditated, and he stayed away from social media.
“I kind of wanted to sit with my feelings and thoughts and process them instead of mindless television or mindless social media,” Rodgers said.
That was especially important in April during the 2020 NFL draft. The Packers drafted quarterback Jordan Love in the first round, and it looked like they’d found a replacement for Rodgers before he was even done playing. Rodgers needed time to absorb that, and it helped him get his mind in a really good place.
"You know, especially after the draft, it was important for me mentally to get to a place of freedom with that — freedom from bitterness, freedom from expectations, freedom from future thinking — and I feel like I did,” Rodgers said. “It gave me a really good peace and calm about the season and to be able to focus. I've been trying just to have a lot of gratitude every day at work and to enjoy all the little moments that much more.
"There are things that are out of my control, and I understand that, and I appreciate it. I'm not fighting against it, and I haven't harbored any angst or frustration with anybody in the organization. I'm really content with where I'm at, and I feel like it's helped me to be very clear-minded all year.”
Rodgers believes all that offseason introspection has helped him play better this year, because his mind has been clear and focused on what’s directly in front of him.
"I think it's no surprise that I've been able to play so well, because there haven't been those distractions. I haven't been thinking about next year. I haven't been thinking about decisions that need to be made. I've just been enjoying the little things, been enjoying the coaches in the room, been enjoying my teammates — and the other stuff will take care of itself. I'm not worried about it, and I harbor actually zero bitterness about it. And that's just allowed me to have a really calm and genuine peace about the situation."
Even though it sounds like Rodgers is trying to prepare himself — and Packers fans everywhere — for a major change that’s coming very soon, he’s not ready to hang up his helmet and cleats.
"I don't think that this is my last year by any means, but I'm definitely enjoying everything as much as I can this year, especially with how strange it's been without fans,” Rodgers said. The end may be coming, but it hasn’t arrived yet.
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