Rodgers carving own Pack legacy
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- You can't drive a block in this town without bumping into something that reminds of you Brett Favre -- a yard sign, a steakhouse, a jersey in a storefront window. One of the first shops you see when walking into Austin Straubel International Airport is a Packers store stocked with Favre shirts and posters. Even the Barnes & Noble on South Oneida has a section dedicated to the Packers in general and Favre in particular, commemorative tomes, animated picture books and everything in between.
You don't erase that kind of legacy in a season or maybe ever, but Aaron Rodgers is proving that you can build something beside it, throw by throw, victory by victory, and let history take care of the rest.
"Now that A-Rod is our guy, he's out there showing it," Packers receiver Donald Driver said. "He's proving it to the world."
Rodgers and the Packers didn't defeat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night at Lambeau Field, but he took another step in his first season as Green Bay's starting quarterback. With a big-time arm, quick feet and even some flair on the move, Rodgers is carrying both a deep appreciation for his role but also the detachment necessary to withstand the inevitable difficult times.
Playing quarterback in the National Football League is already the most taxing job in sports -- just ask collegiate studs Vince Young and Matt Leinart -- and it takes a both a reverence for the job and an impenetrable skin to navigate its highs and lows.
"He's definitely grabbed ahold of this opportunity," said Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. "Aaron probably came into the league at a higher level than I did. I was more raw. I wouldn't have been very good playing in my first year or two. He might have already been good. I don't know if you can ever really duplicate experience until you actually play."
Said Driver: "When he came here in '05, all that he wanted was an opportunity. Now that he has it, he's not letting that opportunity slip away. That's what I always tell him: 'Take advantage of this opportunity because once it's gone it might be gone forever.'"
Driver says Rodgers has quickly earned his teammates trust, even on the heels of replacing an icon. Driver pointed out that most of Favre's peers -- players like Dorsey Levens and Antonio Freeman -- have long since moved on, leaving a young locker room that doesn't have the same attachment to Favre that a more veteran group might.
"A lot of the guys here only played a year or two with Brett, so it wasn't one of those things where they felt like the locker room was going to split up," Driver said. "We just moved forward, regardless of the situation."
Winning helps. Few quarterbacks have played better than Rodgers through the first three weeks of the season. His poise on the field is matched only by his calm temperment off of it.
"I'm just trying to stay focused and not letting the outside distractions sway you from the main job, which is being the quarterback of this team," Rodgers said. "[I'm] trying not to worry about the past or the future and just staying focused on things I can get done in the present."
Does he envision a day when he won't be asked about replacing Favre?
"Probably never," Rodgers said. "That's not a bad thing. I look at it as an honor anytime I'm mentioned in the same sentence as a guy like Brett. He's probably the greatest quarterback in Green Bay Packers history and one of the greatest of all time. For me to be mentioned in the same sentence with him is definitely a positive thing, and it's probably going to be there my entire career."
Rodgers has made peace with this, understanding that the comparisons will come and maybe the criticism, too. But there is a plus side to playing in a town where a Favre jersey sits in nearly every home and where the streets of Green Bay erupt in cheers on fall and winter Sundays.
"I look at myself as the most fortunate player in the NFL," Rodgers said. "I get to be the starting quarterback for a storied franchise, a franchise that has a lot of tradition, many world championships, and an organization with the right guys in charge."
Rodgers was referring to the Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy.
He also could have included himself.