GREEN BAY – After an offseason of reflection, Aaron Rodgers emerged from the Hutson Center on Wednesday morning to cheers from the fans congregated at Ray Nitschke Field for the first open Packers training-camp practice in nearly two years.
While uncertainly loomed over the Packers and the NFL's reigning MVP quarterback this spring, Rodgers did his best to focus on what's in front of him and clear his mind from outside clutter.
He traveled and spent time with those closest to him. He hosted "Jeopardy!" and golfed Big Sky in Montana. At times, Rodgers even began to picture what life might look like after the NFL.
At the end of the day, however, the arrow always pointed back to football and that competitive fire that's been burning inside Rodgers for the past 37 years.
"I was really working on myself and my own mental state throughout the summer and at various points (pondered) if I wanted to even keep playing," said Rodgers after the first practice of training camp on Wednesday. "But the fire still burns and I wanted to be on the football team."
A lot of twists and turns over the past six months led to Rodgers reporting for camp on Tuesday. Outside of a May appearance on Kenny Mayne's final "SportsCenter" telecast and participation in "The Match" charity golf event in June, Rodgers mostly stayed out of the public eye this offseason.
Rodgers had his reasons for that, namely his preference for the ongoing conversations between he and the Packers organization to remain private, as the two sides worked towards a resolution.
During a 32-minute news conference on Wednesday, Rodgers was honest about his feelings and thorough in presenting everything that led to his absence during the offseason program.
Rodgers reiterated it wasn't about money or the Packers drafting Jordan Love last year, but rather his disappointment over watching core veterans depart over the years and a desire to "be involved in conversations that affect my ability to do my job."
Rodgers flew in on Tuesday after talks between him and the team began to progress. While there's still things to sort out, Rodgers was happy to be back on the practice field Wednesday and it didn't take long for him to look like his same MVP self, zinging a 20-yard touchdown pass to receiver Equanimeous St. Brown on a corner route.
"I've had a lot of great conversations over the last two weeks with various teammates, past and present, and that's definitely refueled the fire to go out and lead and perform at my best," Rodgers said. "I felt really good today after a long hiatus, just being back out there and feeling like the rhythm and the timing and the accuracy was where I wanted to be."
The Green Bay Packers held their first practice of 2021 training camp at Ray Nitschke Field on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.
General Manager Brian Gutekunst and Head Coach Matt LaFleur both expressed their excitement about Rodgers' return when addressing the media prior to Wednesday's practice.
After prepping Love in the No. 1 spot during the offseason program, LaFleur said he, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy have been busy getting Rodgers up to speed on some of the playbook changes.
LaFleur, in a joking tone, said he endured a few restless nights wondering whether Rodgers would return for a 17th season in Green Bay but the ultimate goal of a championship quickly came back into focus after Rodgers' return to the building.
"I think you're always prepared for the possibilities and you're always planning and thinking about either scenario because we were, quite frankly, very unsure," LaFleur said. "You have to have plans for whatever would happen and I'm just really happy that he's back in the building, he's part of this football team because with him we feel like the sky's the limit."
Now back in Green Bay, Rodgers said he's enjoyed reconnecting with teammates, trainers and the equipment staff this week, and was emphatic in saying he's "all-in" on helping the 2021 Packers win a Super Bowl.
"I love my teammates. I love the city. I love my coaches," Rodgers said. "It is a lot of fun to be back here, and like I said, I'm competitive and I realize the type of team that's in place here. It's a team that has a lot of talent on it. It's been close the last couple years, so I'm definitely excited about this season."