Aaron Rodgers hasn't made a decision about whether he wants to return to the Green Bay Packers next season, but he made it clear that the animosity he felt toward the organization at this time last year is gone.
After accepting his fourth career NFL MVP on Thursday at the NFL Honors in Los Angeles, Rodgers said he would decide what he wants to do in 2022, "in the near future, and I'm not gonna keep a lot of people waiting."
In the rest of his post-awards news conference, he seemingly laid out the cases for just about every possible scenario -- although he appeared to downplay the idea of playing for another team when he corrected himself after first mentioning what the best "place" for him would be.
"I think you've got to take some of the emotion out of it and then kind of lean into understanding what it takes to revamp and feel like what's the best place," Rodgers said, stopping himself briefly. "The best decision for me moving forward -- not really place -- more just what does it feel like to commit to a season if that's what I want to do? The good thing is I still feel like my body is in a good place."
A year ago, Rodgers accepted his third MVP but was privately unhappy with the direction the Packers were headed. That came to a head during the offseason, and when ESPN's Adam Schefter reported some of the details of his unhappiness in April, it began months of speculation about whether Rodgers would even play in 2021.
When he finally ended his offseason holdout and reported for training camp in July, he detailed a list of grievances and said even though he returned to the team he wasn't certain how -- or even if -- his complaints would be addressed by team president Mark Murphy, vice president Russ Ball and general manager Brian Gutekunst.
"There was obviously some things that were voiced in the offseason, privately between him and myself, and I'm just thankful for the response," Rodgers said Thursday of Gutekunst. "There was a lot of things that were done to make me feel really special and important, to the present, the past and the future of the franchise. And I've got to say that Russ and Brian especially had a big hand in that. And it didn't go unnoticed."
Rodgers said shortly after last month's NFC divisional playoff loss to the 49ers that retirement was a possibility, and he reiterated that on Thursday.
"I talked at length at various times about being comfortable walking away and just not playing, and I don't want to create more questions than I probably already have, but I don't fear retirement; I don't fear moving on," he said. "I'm very proud of what I've accomplished, proud that I've accomplished it in Green Bay over the last 17 years and excited about the future, whatever that ends up being or looking like.
"Also still highly competitive and still [have] that bitter taste from the divisional game, so definitely a lot to weigh, but thankful for the Packers organization and the conversations that we had at the end of the season and just the way the whole season went. I was obviously frustrated about some things in the offseason. We had a ton of conversations and I just felt like there was so much growth, and I'm so thankful for that. I'm thankful for the relationships -- with Brian as much as anybody."
Rodgers has one year remaining on his contract with the Packers, who are facing significant salary-cap problems this offseason. That prompted him to say after the season that he does not want to be part of a rebuilding team. Coach Matt LaFleur responded to that by saying the Packers have a plan to reload, not rebuild.
"I think there's a lot to build on there, whether I'm there or not," Rodgers said. "I think they've got a really good nucleus in place. Should I come back, there's some things that need to get done, probably, to get the team where it needs to go. Should I feel like it's my time to move on and do something else, I'll be extremely eternally grateful for the Green Bay Packers organization, the fan base and all the incredible 17 years' worth of memories and friendships and special, special moments that I've gotten to share with members of the organization, my teammates, people that work there and the fans, as well. I'm just super-thankful for every single moment in the journey."