Aaron Rodgers doesn't want 2021 to be treated like Green Bay Packers 'farewell tour'

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers and the "beautiful mystery" tour will continue this season, whether or not it's his last with the Packers.

After an offseason in which he stayed away while he tried to get the Packers to acquiesce to how he believes he should be involved -- resulting in a restructured contract that makes it much easier for the quarterback to play somewhere else in 2022 -- Rodgers is trying to make one thing clear.

"I don't want a farewell tour," Rodgers said Wednesday. "I don't know what's going to happen after the season, but I'm going to enjoy it with the right perspective, for sure, and not look at it as I'm getting through this. I'm going to enjoy the hell out of all of it."

The response sounded similar to his approach last season, when he said the Packers' decision to draft Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft likely altered how he hoped his career would end in Green Bay and later called his future a "beautiful mystery."

Rodgers said that at times he thought 2020 might be his final year in Green Bay, where he has played his entire career, has been the starter since 2008 and most recently won his third NFL MVP last season.

"The reason I approached it like that is I just knew when the [Love] pick was made that the clock had started, for sure," Rodgers said. "And I thought unless there was something in the season that really made me feel like I'm going to be here past 2021 that maybe this would be my last year. I didn't want to be going into a year with some sort of ... as a lame duck, like I said. I didn't think that was fair to what I accomplished and what I mean to this team, and nothing really changed in that regard. I went into the offseason, that [it] could have been it."

"I'm glad that I enjoyed every moment, I'm glad that I led exactly the way I wanted to lead and looked for those conversations with certain guys that needed a pick-me-up at different times. I took the headphones off and enjoyed the surroundings and the road trips and the time with the guys. Yeah, it's a good template, for sure."

Rodgers' change in approach could be found, among other places, in his reaction to Wednesday's joint practice with the New York Jets.

"I don't want a farewell tour. I don't know what's going to happen after the season, but I'm going to enjoy it with the right perspective, for sure, and not look at it as I'm getting through this. I'm going to enjoy the hell out of all of it."
Aaron Rodgers, on the 2021 season

Two years ago, Rodgers ripped the idea after a pair of joint practices with the Houston Texans. It was the first time in 14 years that the Packers practiced with another team during training camp, and afterward Rodgers said: "I wouldn't mind if they didn't do it for another 14 years."

When someone joked to Packers coach Matt LaFleur earlier in the week that one of his players wasn't a big fan of joint practices, LaFleur said wryly: "Who would that be?"

But Rodgers softened his stance this time around, in part because of LaFleur's connection to the Jets' staff. LaFleur's brother, Mike, is the Jets' offensive coordinator, and their head coach, Robert Saleh, is the reason LaFleur broke into the NFL in the first place.

Rodgers was seen chatting with the Jets' quarterbacks, including first-round pick Zach Wilson and Green Bay native James Morgan, during breaks between periods. He said afterward that it was beneficial to play against Saleh's defense because of how many similar schemes the Packers will face this season.

"Tom [Fanning, Packers assistant director of communications] just told me out here, he said, 'Do not go scorched earth about joint practices,' so I'm trying my best," Rodgers said with a smile. "Look, I've never been a huge fan of joint practices, but I think I've said as well there's merit to certain aspects of it.

"That's why I think I have a slightly different perspective about these practices with other teams. I tongue-and-cheeked with Tom about going scorched earth. There is a lot of stuff to be gained from these type of practices. For me personally, the perspective through some of the work I've done in the offseason and trying to just be more joyful and happier is going to allow this season to be really special and memorable, I think."

Rodgers is not expected to play this preseason, with Love set to get the majority of the game reps. However, Love did not practice Wednesday while recovering from a right shoulder strain he suffered in Saturday's preseason opener.

LaFleur said Love threw a little on Tuesday, and the coach did not rule him out for Saturday's game against the Jets.

"It's still day-to-day, but we'll give him every opportunity," LaFleur said. "We just don't want to ever put him in a situation where it could make it worse."