Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have to wait at least one more year before taking the reins from three-time MVP Brett Favre, who will return to the Packers for his 16th NFL season. But for Rodgers, a time to wait is a time to get better.
"I kind of expected (Favre to return)," said Rodgers, who has spent much of the offseason studying with Head Coach Mike McCarthy and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements in Green Bay.
Amongst media speculation that Favre would retire, Rodgers was all but anointed the Packers' starting quarterback. And that's exactly how he plans to approach each and every day.
"Regardless of whether or not Brett would have come back, I'm a leader on this team and that's how I have to approach it," Rodgers said. "I have an opportunity right now to lead these guys everyday when I come in and see them and that's part of our preparation."
McCarthy, who also served as Packers quarterbacks coach in 1999, is imparting his knowledge on Rodgers, much as he did with Favre, each day as the two meet for quarterback school.
"It really helps me that he's a former quarterbacks coach because he understands the position," Rodgers said. "He knows what you're going through on a day-to-day basis. He knows your thought process and he's a great teacher of not only the fundamentals, but how to play quarterback."
After a brief vacation to the Caribbean following the season and a trip home to visit family in Chico, Calif., Rodgers returned to Green Bay with his nose in the playbook.
"I think it's going really well," Rodgers said of his new relationship with McCarthy. "Fundamentally we're working on a lot of things that he believes in which he's taught his quarterbacks throughout the years. Mentally I've just been picking his brain trying to learn this offense. He's got a great football mind and I think that we're going to work well together.
"He puts a lot of emphasis on the quarterback making plays and putting us in good situations, so I think that caters right to mine and Brett's game."
A constant competitor, Rodgers also knows there's a possibility the Packers could take a quarterback in one of the first three rounds of tomorrow's draft, but he won't think about that just yet.
"I know that Mr. Thompson was at every practice last year and I hope he got a good depiction of what kind of player I can be working with the scout team against our defense and working with the number ones on Wednesdays," Rodgers said. "That's just another thing that I can't control and I'm really not too worried about it. If it happens, then hopefully I get an opportunity to compete for the backup spot, but I don't really want to speculate about that."
Now that his immediate future as the Packers' starting quarterback has been delayed with Favre's announcement to return, Rodgers can shift his concentration back from a possible starting role to that of student behind one of the greatest to play the game.
"He's coming back and we're moving forward as a team," Rodgers said. "I know my role and I'm going to embrace my role as the backup and learn from Brett as much as I can for at least another year.
"I know I still have a lot to learn and a lot of hard work in front of me to get to where I need to be. With Brett back, I have another year to learn and time to come along at my own pace, but all the while I know that I'm just one play away and that is definitely going to keep pushing me to be the best I can be."