GREEN BAY, Wis. — A day after Aaron Rodgers set the NFL world into a frenzied speculation about his future because of a lengthy Instagram post, the Green Bay Packers quarterback said Tuesday that he did not have any news to report or a decision made about whether he will play in 2022.
Instead, Rodgers attempted to explain on “The Pat McAfee Show” that his post — hashtagged “Monday Night Gratitude” — came at the end of a 12-day cleanse called Panchakarma, during which he spent time in a reflective state. “There’s nothing cryptic about gratitude,” Rodgers said.
“You’ve got to kind of turn everything else off, so you’re not working out, you’re not straining or anything. It’s kind of a re-centering. It not only heals you physically, but I think it takes away mental stress and then the spiritual part I think is it allows you to kind of enjoy the meditations a little more, so when I come out, my first thought is intense gratitude for the people in my life,” he said.
Among the photos that created the most stir was one of receivers Randall Cobb and Davante Adams from the Nov. 7 game at Kansas City that Rodgers missed because of COVID-19. They left a space between them where Rodgers would normally stand during the national anthem, and some internet sleuths interpreted that as a goodbye message.
“When I got that photo from Randall and Davante, it brought tears to my eyes because that’s my guys standing before the game,” Rodgers said. “Randall’s always on my right, Tae’s on my left and I embrace with both of them after the anthem. It’s a part of the pregame ritual but also a statement about friendship and love and the connection that we have collectively and individually in our own friendships.
“They held space and an open spot for me in the game I missed because of my positive COVID test, and that got me, man. And that’s one of my favorite photos from the year. It really is because it just shows the love and how special each of those moments are, so that’s one of my all-time favorite photos and the thought that went into doing that was deeply moving to me, especially with how crazy that week was. To get that photo after the game from them, it got me.”
Rodgers’ future could be tied to Adams, who is scheduled to become a free agent next month. The Packers almost certainly will use the franchise tag to keep him off the market with the hope that they can reach a long-term contract to keep Adams in Green Bay if Rodgers returns.
“There’s obviously the opportunity to tag him at some point, which I don’t think both parties probably want that done,” Rodgers said. “They’d rather get a long-term extension done, but I understand that’s a part of the decision and I talked about not wanting to drag this thing out.”
His 41-minute appearance on the show Tuesday was more about reflection than looking toward the future, although Rodgers said he had “a few more things to contemplate but it won’t be long” before he decides whether to play in 2022 and if so, if it’s for the Packers.
He made it clear that he left Green Bay feeling much different about the Packers after this past season than he did last year, when he began his offseason of discontent with the organization.
“I would say the meetings were much different than they’d been in the past — in a positive way,” Rodgers said. “And that there were some real honest conversations that I appreciated.”
Rodgers said the mending began shortly after he returned to the team last July during a meeting with general manager Brian Gutekunst early in training camp. That followed an offseason filled with Zoom meetings, phone calls and several trips by team personnel — including one in which he said several members of the coaching staff tailgated along the Pacific Coast Highway in front of his California home waiting for him to return — trying to convince Rodgers to come back to the team.
Rodgers likened that training camp conversation with Gutekunst to him appearing onstage with Brett Favre at the NFL Honors in 2013.
“The best analogy is, that was me and Brett Favre shaking hands onstage at the NFL Honors,” Rodgers said. “I felt like, and a lot of people, and Brett would probably say the same thing, it was kind of a catalyst to get Brett back in the fold. … And that’s what that conversation was with Brian and I. … I feel like that was kind of a first step toward having real free-flowing conversation and friendship, and I’m definitely thankful for the work that he put in on the relationship and Russ Ball as well.”
Actress Shailene Woodley was a big part of not only Rodgers’ Instagram post but also the Tuesday show. Rodgers, who announced 13 months ago that the two were engaged, credited her for playing a part in his success on the field the past two seasons.
“I also was telling Shai, been with you for two seasons, won two MVPs; that’s not a coincidence, either,” Rodgers said, seemingly contradicting recent entertainment site reports that the two had split. “And I mean that. When your home life is stable and you have an amazing partner to do life with, it just makes the work life a bonus. … When you have a partner like that, it just makes life so much more enjoyable and tasteful and exciting. I think that living a life of gratitude is such an important way to keep that joy in your life. When you meet your person, life just changes and you can’t possibly not be changed being around those special people that we meet.”
He also apologized to those close to him who were impacted by his controversial stance on vaccinations that came to light shortly after his positive COVID-19 test during the season.
“I didn’t realize the kind of shrapnel they’d be taking,” Rodgers said. “So many people stepped up to the plate and sent me great messages of support, and love. But I think I realized being out of this now and having conversations with some of those people, and understanding kind of the entire gravity of the situation I was thrust into and decided to speak on multiple times had an effect on a lot of people. To those people, I just say I’m sorry. I never meant to get you in the middle of it, but you got into it by proxy because of your relation to me.”