GREEN BAY – With one line, Aaron Rodgers delivered his position on last week’s criticism of him quite clearly.
“In this country, I think freedom of speech is a very important part of our culture,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback said Tuesday during his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com. “That being said, anybody can have an opinion about anything – regardless of how stupid it might be, or uninformed.”
There would be more. After opting for “Shhhhh!” as his response to critics when he was interviewed on NBC’s Sunday Night Football after the Packers’ 42-24 victory at Houston, Rodgers had a lot more to say Tuesday, especially to retired NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe and ESPN’s Skip Bayless, although he didn't mention either man by name
On the CBS pregame show The NFL Today on Sunday, Sharpe said this about Rodgers and the Packers: “I think they have some deeper issues, but let's get to the surface issues right now. They can't run the football, so that puts a lot of pressure on Aaron Rodgers and that poor offensive line. Aaron Rodgers doesn't always do a great job of getting rid of the football on rhythm. So now he's taking some unnecessary sacks.
“But what I see is a lot of finger pointing by Aaron Rodgers. I don't really know Aaron Rodgers, haven't been around him. But he strikes me as a guy that, it's always someone else's fault other than his own. I'm not so sure, I'm not so sure, that deep down inside, how well his receiving corps really likes Aaron Rodgers.
“I tell you what else, just because you're a great quarterback and an MVP quarterback that doesn't make you a great person. There is a difference between the two.”
Also at some point last week, Bayless suggested on First Take that Rodgers was blaming his less-than-stellar performance in the first five games on the uneven work of the scout-team defense in practice. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted Bayless as saying, “On a scale of one to a trillion of lamest excuses, the reigning MVP just hit a trillion on this one. Aaron Rodgers is blaming his shaky start to this NFL season on the rookies' lack of professionalism and dedication to playing the scout-team defense against him in practice. Have you ever heard anything lamer than that?
“He reached for an almost as lame excuse that he was given a slick kicking ball to throw on the two-point pass (at Seattle on Sept. 24). Stop it. You're the reigning MVP.”
On his radio show last week, Rodgers agreed with coach Mike McCarthy’s criticism of the Packers’ practices leading up to the team’s Oct. 7 loss at Indianapolis and revealed that McCarthy had said in a team meeting that the scout-team players’ work had not been up to par. Rodgers agreed with the assessment, then expounded on it. He also took some responsibility earlier in the show for the team’s up-and-down start, admitting he had not played up to his expectations.
Rodgers acknowledged after the victory over the Texans – a game in which he threw a team single-game record-tying six touchdown passes – that some of the criticism fueled him.
“There are often stories out there that have very little truth to them; that are based on feelings or images that you want to conjure up or situations that you think you understand when you really don’t,” Rodgers said. “I think more than anything this week, one reminder that Mike (McCarthy) and I talked about was just controlling the things that you can control. We’ve had a lot of adversity around here in my fifth year starting. And I think that’s one thing that sometimes is easy to forget but it’s a good reminder, that there’s always going to be distractions and opinions and things going on that are outside of your control. In this case there was.
“It’s easy to criticize. Maybe some of these people have been waiting to criticize us after the success we’ve had whether they have personal vendettas against myself, or Mike or our team. A team failing that is supposed to win is a lot easier of a story to write than a team that’s supposed to win that is meeting expectations. Teams that aren’t meeting expectations and teams that aren’t playing as well as pundits have picked them to be, it’s easier to jump on them. It’s the easy road for those people and they decide to jump on it.”
Rodgers said he was especially agitated by the suggestion that he was blaming the rookies on the scout team for his performance in the first five games.
“Absolutely ridiculous. Anybody who knows anything about football knows that that story was ridiculous – everything about it,” Rodgers said. “All I did was regurgitate what Mike said in the meeting. I’ve worked on the scout team, so I know what it means to give a good look and how difficult that can be at times, and you’re reading cards and different things. There is a great dialogue between myself and the coaches and the scout team.
“We needed to pick up the practice tempo. Mike said that, I said that, other players have said that. That’s true. It offense, defense, scout team offense and scout team defense. We all need to give a better look. Absolutely nothing wrong with those comments, no excuses. And it’s ridiculous that a comment would be written about that and that those guys would have to answer questions about that and that I would have to talk to them and make sure that everything is fine. Those guys think it’s as ridiculous as I did.”
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