Packers coach Matt LaFleur says clock not ticking on Aaron Rodgers

Stephen A., Spears engage in epic argument over Packers' QB dilemma (1:49)

Stephen A. Smith and Marcus Spears are on opposite sides regarding the Packers' selection of Jordan Love and Aaron Rodgers' status in Green Bay. (1:49)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If drafting Jordan Love started the clock on Aaron Rodgers' career with the Green Bay Packers, coach Matt LaFleur tried to make it sound like time would move slowly.

In his first comments since the Packers traded up to the No. 26 pick in the first round to take Rodgers' possible replacement, the second-year coach denied that it meant Rodgers' time with the organization that drafted him in 2005 was nearing an end.

"Aaron is a pro, and he's the leader of our football team, and I anticipate that for a really long time," LaFleur said Saturday after the draft concluded. "I have so much respect for him not only as a player but the person, and some of the stuff that nobody sees. So I can't tell you how much I like working with him."

When asked what he meant by "a really long time," LaFleur said: "You know how this league works. I know you guys get tired of me saying this, but it's about getting better each and every day and we're going to take it week to week. In my mind, I think Aaron is by far the best quarterback I've ever been around. I think he's the best ever to play the game. I hope he can play until he decides he doesn't want to play anymore."

LaFleur said he has spoken with Rodgers since general manager Brian Gutekunst picked Love on Thursday. Gutekunst also previously said he had spoken to Rodgers, and Love confirmed that he, too, spoke to Rodgers -- a move that Rodgers initiated, a source told ESPN.

Rodgers has not made any comments publicly about the Packers' decision to pick Love, but LaFleur said he did not anticipate Rodgers causing problems for Love or within the team.

There were initial concerns about how Rodgers would take to LaFleur as a coach after a rocky ending with former coach Mike McCarthy, but despite decreased production from Rodgers, the Packers went 13-3 and reached the NFC Championship Game in LaFleur's first season and Rodgers' 12th as a starter.

"I can't say enough about his leadership, his value, his importance to this football team," LaFleur said. "He is the one that leads us out there. I know he's going to be a great mentor and I'm excited to get back to work with all these guys."

Rodgers sat for three seasons behind Brett Favre until the Packers forced Favre into a decision about his future and he initially retired in March 2008 only to change his mind by early summer. At that point, the Packers had moved on to Rodgers and remained committed to him, leading to an ugly ending with Favre.

"The reason that back when we moved from Brett to Aaron was because of what Aaron had done his first three years here, and that's got to happen with Jordan," Gutekunst said Saturday. "He has to be able to do the work and he has to do that for us to make us believe that he can be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. We drafted him in the first round, we certainly think he has that kind of talent. But that's not enough in the National Football League. You've got to work, you've got to earn it, you've got to become a good enough player."

Rodgers, 36, is under contract through the 2023 season as part of the $134 million contract extension he signed in August 2018. Love's rookie contract also will run through 2023, but the Packers will have an option for a fifth year.

"Again, we have one of the best to ever lace them up, and we're shooting for championships for as long as he's here, and we expect him to be here for quite a while," Gutekunst said. "Again, Jordan's got to learn, he's got a lot to go. I'm not going to lie, we took him in the first round, if we didn't like him a lot, we wouldn't have done that. But again, the importance of that position to our franchise is just something to me that can't be overlooked."