GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When Aaron Rodgers steps on to the field at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, the memories will come back to him quickly.
And none of them will be good.
That was the site of Rodgers’ first extensive NFL action, and it was, by any measure, a disaster.
On Dec. 19, 2005, Rodgers entered the game against the Baltimore Ravens late in the fourth quarter with the Packers trailing 34-3. Then-coach Mike Sherman pulled starter Brett Favre. Rodgers, who had previously played only in mop-up duty two months earlier against the New Orleans Saints, lost a pair of fumbles (one of which was returned for a touchdown) and threw an interception.
Rodgers’ final numbers that day -- 8-of-15 passing for 65 yards with no touchdowns and one interception -- added up to a passer rating of 36.8, which remains the second-lowest rating of his career ahead of only the Dec. 12, 2010 game at Detroit that he did not finish because of a concussion.
Yet that game, a 48-3 loss in a 4-12 season that ended with Sherman getting fired, served one important purpose for Rodgers in his development.
“I thought I was a little better than I showed that night,” Rodgers recalled this week. “So I was resolute in my determination to get better that offseason.”
Rodgers had the entire offseason to think about his performance, and it served as motivation.
“I got to really work on my skills and that was important for me and my development, realizing I didn’t want to put another performance like that on the field,” Rodgers said.
Over the next two seasons, Rodgers would see significant playing time on only two more occasions -- in 2006 against the New England Patriots (a game in which he was only slightly better before breaking his foot) and in 2007 against the Dallas Cowboys (where he nearly led the Packers to a comeback victory) -- before he became the starter in 2008.
“Can’t say that New England the next year was much better,” Rodgers said. “But I know I got better between then and the next season, and luckily I was able to put together a good performance (against the Cowboys) before I took over as the starter."