Just days away from his fifth NFC Championship Game — and his fourth since his lone Super Bowl appearance 10 years ago — Rodgers insisted that he’s not looking at Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a best last-chance scenario. Not even at age 37 and with his possible eventual replacement now on the roster.
“I’m always just trying to stay present, especially this year as much as anything, and enjoy the moments,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “I hope there’s more opportunities, but I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t. That stuff is out of my control. My future is a beautiful mystery I think. The present is such a gift to be able to stay in the moment and to have gratitude for being in this situation again, and being with the guys and having fans in our stadium and maybe snow in an NFC Championship Game. I’m going to enjoy these moments for sure, and just not worry about what happens down the line.”
That’s been Rodgers’ approach most of the season. After the Packers traded up to draft quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of last year’s draft, Rodgers acknowledged that he might no longer be able to control how his time ends in Green Bay.
But since that moment, his teammates and coaches have reported Rodgers to be in as good a mood as they’ve seen from him. The result might end up being Rodgers’ third career MVP.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity again to be leading these guys, to have played the way I want to play, to be called upon for a greater leadership role,” Rodgers said. “Those things are really, really important to me. But all that other stuff … is stuff that I’m just not going to focus on. Because to me it is a beautiful mystery what happens down the line, but there’ll be a time when we meet that future, and right now I’m just going to enjoy the present.”
He’s still looking for that second Super Bowl appearance. The Packers were blown out by the San Francisco 49ers in last year’s conference title game. The Packers equaled their 13-3 record from a year ago, but this time they’re the No. 1 seed and have the NFL’s top-scoring offense. Rodgers has said after each of the past two NFC Championship Game losses that he has wanted to have this game at home. Now he has it.
“No more pressure than usual,” Rodgers said when asked if there’s more pressure on him and the Packers this year. “I think a lot of times the storylines, pressure and those kinds of comments are good stuff for you guys to write about, but I think it starts with the mentality and focus. Obviously I put pressure on myself to perform every single week, and I think there’s a lot to be said for being able to harness that pressure and fear of failure and focus into a real positive. That’s something you learn over the years. But I don’t feel any extra pressure going into this one.
“Definitely thankful to be back here. A lot of people didn’t think we’d be back here after last season. We got a lot of interesting comments last year about us being the worst 13-3 team that people had seen. Not the same type of comments this [time]. Obviously we’re clicking a lot better on offense, I do feel really thankful to be back here, thankful for the chance to be playing.”