GREEN BAY – There were plenty of jokes being made about the quality of football displayed in the NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday. But Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday that the performance of some Pro Bowl players was no laughing matter.
Speaking on his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee and ESPN Madison, the Green Bay Packers quarterback said some of his NFC teammates “embarrassed” themselves with their effort and acknowledged that the league has to do something to make the game into something more than just a glorified walkthrough.
“I'll be honest with you. I was a little bit disappointed. I felt like some of the guys on the NFC side embarrassed themselves,” said Rodgers, who was appearing in his second Pro Bowl and started at quarterback for the NFC, completing 13 of 17 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns (139.6 passer rating).
One of the chief criticisms of the game was the lack of effort displayed by defensive players. Packers left guard T.J. Lang, for example, called the game a “jog-through” on his Twitter page and said he turned off the broadcast to watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS because it was “far more entertaining.”
Asked to expound on his remark Tuesday, Rodgers replied: “I feel like there should be some pride involved in a game like that, and I was just surprised by some of the efforts of some of the guys. This was my second Pro Bowl. (I) played in the one in 2010. It was down in Fort Lauderdale/Miami. I felt that that one had a lot more energy.
“The AFC side obviously had more energy. I think they were upset about the second onside kick (called by Packers coach Mike McCarthy), and at that point they played a lot harder than we did. But even in the early going, they were playing definitely harder than we were.”
Asked if he feels the NFL needs to do something to make the game more competitive, Rodgers said he understood that fear of injury might be one reason why players don’t put forth maximum effort.
“I think that's probably part of it, that guys don't want to get injured in a game like that,” Rodgers said. “(But) I've always found that when you're going that (slower) tempo, that's when the injuries are going to happen, not if you're going full speed. You're more likely to get an injury standing around a pile or just going through it half-speed.
“That being said, I'm not sure what the NFL can do to improve that tempo. Maybe offer more money for a victory than a loss – make the spread that much more. Overall, I was just disappointed by the lack of pride by some of the players that played in the game.”
Rodgers was one of six Packers players to play in Hawaii, along with linebacker Clay Matthews, defensive lineman B.J. Raji, cornerback Charles Woodson, wide receiver Greg Jennings and center Scott Wells. Fullback John Kuhn was chosen but couldn’t play because of an injury.
The winning team receives $50,000 per player, while the losing team’s players receive $25,000 each.
Rodgers cited fellow quarterback Drew Brees as an example of a player who approached the game the right away, although it could be argued that there’s a difference between playing quarterback in the Pro Bowl and playing another, higher-risk position. Regardless, the New Orleans Saints quarterback suffered a dislocated elbow in a previous Pro Bowl and is set to be an unrestricted free agent in March.
“Drew Brees, who doesn't have a contract, who is a free agent potentially – I’m sure the Saints will bring him back – he played the whole second quarter and played well. I felt like, just like I did in 2010, I took a lot of pride in the way I played. I wanted to make sure I knew the plays. It was our (Packers coaching) staff which helped out a little bit, but I wanted to know the plays and I wanted to play well, and I wanted to give the fans a show, and make the Green Bay fans who watched and were watching for me and my teammates, wanted to make them proud of their Pro Bowlers.
“I was just surprised that some of the guys either didn't want to play or when they were in there didn't put any effort into it.”
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