GREEN BAY – With two games to go, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers could be headed for his fourth NFL Most Valuable Player award.
Given everything he's been through in 2021 – from a bout with COVID to a fractured pinky toe that's kept him out of practice for nearly two months now – Rodgers said the honor would take on extra meaning this year.
"Yes, 100 percent it would," he said Wednesday. "This has been one of my favorite years of football. It's hard to think of a year that I've enjoyed more than this one, even with all the adversity."
He explained this season ranks high for him personally due to the reunion with receiver and best friend Randall Cobb, growing closer with David Bakhtiari as he's tried to battle back all season from a knee injury, and perhaps most importantly, his ability to answer the bell weekly when called upon.
Since a dud of a season opener for the Packers, they've gone 12-1 in games Rodgers has started, with him throwing 33 touchdown passes against just two interceptions in that time. He's thrown 16 TD passes and just one pick over the last six games since the toe injury has kept him out of practice other than a couple of times.
"I've told the guys this a few times when I've had the opportunity to speak to them pregame … one of the greatest satisfactions in life is being held to a standard by your teammates and living up to that standard," he said. "I know when I take the field, that there's a standard those guys hold me to, and there's an expectation of performance, and to be able to go out there and perform week after week, the way that I want to perform has been extremely meaningful to me."
Rodgers is considered the leading contender for MVP this season to date, with Colts running back Jonathan Taylor and Buccaneers QB Tom Brady also in the running.
Rodgers' 110.8 passer rating ranks first in the league among qualified passers and is more than five rating points ahead of anyone else (Cincinnati's Joe Burrow, 105.0).
Despite having missed one game, he's tied for fourth in the league with the 33 TD passes, and his four total interceptions (two in Week 1, two since) are the fewest, with his 3,689 passing yards ranking 10th.
Taylor leads the league with 1,626 rushing yards and 17 rushing TDs, while Brady is tops in passing yards (4,580) and passing TDs (37), but due to his 11 interceptions, Brady's passer rating is more than 10 points off the pace at 100.2, and he's attempted 157 more passes than Rodgers (632 to 475) in compiling his numbers.
Last year, Rodgers became one of just six players to win three NFL MVPs since the Associated Press award's inception in 1957. Only one player has won more than three, Peyton Manning, with five. Manning is also the last player to win back-to-back MVPs, doing so in the 2008-09 seasons.
So a fourth would put Rodgers in ultra-rare company on the heels of breaking Brett Favre's franchise record for TD passes. Rodgers surpassed Favre's 442 TD passes as Packers QB last week and now stands at 445 and counting.
All this has occurred in the context of Rodgers' uncertain future, which he also addressed Wednesday. He said he won't rule out retiring, continuing to play for the Packers, or playing elsewhere, but that he expects to make his own decision fairly quickly after the season ends and not "drag it out."
As for the retirement possibility, it's important to Rodgers to "not be a bum on the way out." Regarding Green Bay, he reiterated that he loves playing for this coaching staff, and he's appreciated how his relationship with General Manager Brian Gutekunst has grown over the past year after asking to be more involved in conversations that affect his job.
"If this year has taught me anything, it's that I still can play, I still have a love for the game, I'm still super competitive and still enjoy the process of the week," he said. "I miss practice and it's tough to not be out there week after week now, but I still do love competing and I love being out there.
"There will be a lot of things that I'll weigh in the offseason."
But for now, it's still about relishing this season for what it is, and seeing what's in store both for the team as it chases a championship, and for him as he possibly adds another major personal achievement to a Hall of Fame resume.
"I've really enjoyed this season," he said, "and I would definitely love to finish out the year strong and win my fourth."