Rodgers Makes Rounds On 'Radio Row'


QB Aaron Rodgers and Jim Rome on the set of ESPN's 'Rome is Burning'

As Aaron Rodgers made the rounds on "Radio Row" at the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, he made it sound as though the offseason has gone on long enough for him already.

"I can't wait," Rodgers told Sirius NFL Radio when asked about getting ready for 2009. "As disappointing as the season was, after that last game, I woke up the next day said, 'Man, I can't wait for the next practice, the next anything we have to do as far as when we're a team.' That's your mindset."

Sirius was just one of many stops for Rodgers on his tour through Radio Row, the collection of sports talk radio outlets that sets up shop at the Super Bowl site each year. Rodgers also visited Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio, the Jim Rome Show, and Chris Myers on Fox Sports Radio, among others.

The overriding themes throughout the day as Rodgers reflected on his first season as the Packers starting quarterback were that he truly appreciated how the organization and his teammates backed him during the tumultuous situation involving Brett Favre at the start of training camp, and that he's willing to take responsibility for the close losses that added up to a disappointing 6-10 season.

Regarding the Favre saga, Rodgers explained to Jim Rome how it really threw a "curveball" at the team late in the summer after he had spent the offseason having players over to his house to bond and hang out. But when the situation developed some uncertainty, he felt his teammates had his back.

"Without a doubt, it was a huge thing during training camp to have those guys stand up in front of the media and support me," Rodgers said. "That was so big to me."

He felt similar support from Head Coach Mike McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson, who never wavered from their stance that Rodgers was their starting quarterback. That support was re-emphasized when Rodgers was given a seven-year contract extension midway through the season.

"The commitment they made to me after the bye week to sign me to an extended deal really meant a lot to me," Rodgers told Mike & Mike. "It's a big honor to know I'm going to be in Green Bay for a long time."

That said, Rodgers didn't hesitate to add that despite a 4,000-yard passing season, he expects to improve his play, particularly late in games where such a huge chunk of the Packers' season ended up being determined.

"The stats look pretty good, but quarterbacks are judged on wins and losses, and we only won six," Rodgers told Mike & Mike. "We lost seven by four points or less, and that was the most difficult thing, the frustrating thing, because we had opportunities to win those games.

"A lot of times we'd have a great second-to-last drive, but we were not able to finish it off with that last drive, and I take a lot of that on my shoulders as the quarterback. You're paid to win games, you're paid to be clutch down the stretch and I wasn't. I didn't play as well as I would have liked to down the stretch and that's disappointing.

"But you learn from it, every experience. It's a difficult week the week after a loss, but you just have to take the negatives and improve on them."

He did say that he was proud to have played in all 16 games, playing through a painful Week 4 shoulder injury for several weeks, and that for all the turmoil within the fan base surrounding his ascension to the starting job, he felt the fans were really behind him by the end of the season.

He called the loud, heartwarming ovation he received walking off Lambeau Field after the victory over Detroit in the regular-season finale "one of the top-five moments all-time in my sporting career."

"That's the crazy thing about our fans and why I love them so much," Rodgers told Rome. "To go through what we did this season, a five-game losing streak where four of those came down to the wire and we lost in the last seconds, and then to win our last game and go out the way we did.

"There was so much love and support. At 6-10 you wouldn't expect that but it was definitely special to me."

As for who he thinks will win the Super Bowl, Rodgers didn't make any bold predictions. He has friends on both teams, namely Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was drafted one year before Rodgers in 2004, and Arizona running back J.J. Arrington, a college teammate at Cal.

He did say that if the underdog Cardinals are going to upset the favored Steelers, they'll need varying snap counts and quick releases by quarterback Kurt Warner to be able to read Pittsburgh's blitzes and keep them off balance.

"Pittsburgh's a big team and they like to bring four or five to a side, bring overload pressure," Rodgers said, talking a little X's and O's on Mike & Mike. "With Kurt, the most important thing is protection, know where he's protected and where to throw hot, and get it out of his hand quickly.

"If he can get the ball out of his hand quickly, I think it's going to stymie some of that blitzing Pittsburgh's going to do, and (the Cardinals) can be in the game late."

{sportsad300}A possible Cardinals victory prompted the Sirius radio crew to speculate that perhaps next season's Thursday night NFL opener, routinely hosted by the reigning Super Bowl champion, could pit the Cardinals against the Packers. It makes some sense, because the Packers are scheduled to play in Arizona next season and are always a prime-time television draw.

For now, that's pure speculation, but in looking ahead the Packers actually will be playing both Super Bowl participants on the road in 2009, with the NFC North matched with the AFC North next season. The last time the Packers played both reigning conference champions in the same season was in 2003, when Green Bay beat both Tampa Bay and Oakland on the road.

Just discussing that, however briefly, seemed to liven up the conversation with Rodgers, who sounded confident the team can bounce back quickly from its 6-10 mark. Seeing teams like Miami and Atlanta, who finished in last place in their respective divisions in 2007, recover and make the playoffs in 2008, plus seeing Arizona go 9-7 and advance to the Super Bowl, gives every non-playoff team legitimate confidence heading into 2009, Green Bay included.

"It really does," Rodgers said on Fox Sports Radio. "That's the great thing about the NFL, the parity and the changeover. On average, half the playoff teams are not in playoffs the next year, and six new teams step up and take those spots.

"And if you just get in the playoffs, anything can happen."

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