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After the Green Bay Packers’ Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the critics came for Aaron Rodgers with pitchforks. After Monday night’s bounce-back win over the Detroit Lions, the reigning league MVP responded with a blowtorch. Or more accurately, a flamethrower.
That’s the only way to describe Rodgers’ weekly appearance on "The Pat McAfee Show," where he expounded on comments he made after the Packers’ win over the Lions, when he vaguely referenced “bullsh**” criticism and expressed happiness about getting “trolls” off the team’s back for a week.
That wasn’t the only thing Rodgers had to say.
There was more — a lot more — and it appeared to be pointed at a few ex-NFL players and coaches who took direct shots at Rodgers in the days following Green Bay’s season-opening 38-3 loss.
“It’s absolute horsesh**— to give a platform to people who have no idea what they’re talking about as far as my mental state and my focus, my work habits — people that have not been around me, are not in my life, I don’t have communication with them, [and] are not in the locker room,” Rodgers said during his appearance. “That’s just, it’s chickensh**.”
Who exactly was Rodgers talking about?
Well, he didn’t name anyone directly, but you hardly needed to look hard last week to find former NFL players and coaches taking a hammer to him. A few of the eyebrow-raising comments came from Rodgers’ former teammate Jermichael Finley, a tight end who had a hot and cold relationship with the quarterback and has also been a Rodgers critic for years. He popped up prominently last week on a handful of platforms, calling for Green Bay to bench Rodgers if he struggled, repeating that Rodgers looked tired. Finley also questioned Rodgers' “hunger.”
“Actually, you can see it right through his helmet,” Finley said of Rodgers in an appearance on ESPN’s “Keyshawn, JWill & Max” show. “The eyes and the face tells everything as a personality. And, I just don’t see that NFL hunger and just the hunger to go win another championship.”
Finley later doubled down on that criticism with TMZ Sports, suggesting that Rodgers “probably don’t want to play football anymore.”
It could have ended there, with Rodgers getting the sharp end of the stick from a former teammate. But it didn’t, with other analysts unloading on the quarterback heading into Monday’s game. Perhaps none as critically as the "NFL Today" crew on CBS, which spent a portion of Sunday’s pregame show burying Rodgers after Week 1. The roundtable included former wideout Nate Burleson, former quarterbacks Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms, and former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, all of whom questioned some element of Rodgers’ commitment to football.
That quartet in particular seemed to be in a competition to one-up each other in their criticisms of Rodgers, which were all remarkably damning after only one game. Esiason started by saying he believed Rodgers was “bored” in Green Bay and then teasingly commented on the quarterback having a “man bun” and finding his “inner peace” in the offseason. Burleson responded by saying Rodgers made the offseason about himself and remarked “his disposition was bad on the sideline [against the Saints], too. He almost seemed like he was uninterested in what was going on.” Cowher then chimed in with criticism about Rodgers wanting more communication with the front office, saying the quarterback looked “selfish,” “aloof” and “like he doesn’t care.” Simms closed out the discussion by calling Rodgers’ a “distraction” in the offseason.
Even for Sunday morning studio shows that are often over the top, this one had a remarkable amount of venom to it. And it sure sounded like Rodgers was responding to that show as well as Finley during Tuesday’s appearance.
“It’s so ridiculous that people get a platform to do this and it’s the same type of people,” Rodgers told McAfee and former Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk, who is a guest host on the show. “On the flip side of that, in this day and age of media, the things that get the most [attention], it’s all about clicks, right? And hits and views. One second counts as a view.
“So the actual opinions that are garnering the most attention are the most outlandish. It’s not even overreaction Monday or Tuesday anymore. It’s overreaction every time a microphone is in your face. Every time you have a single shot in the camera and you get to talk into the camera, every time you’re on a panel, it’s who can say the most outlandish things because that’s going to give you the most hits.”
“That’s the media we live in,” Rodgers continued. “That’s fine. But at the same time, I still have this show, I have my weekly [media] stuff. Most people don’t use their platform to defend themselves. I don’t think I need to defend myself from people who aren’t worth spending time on. But I’m always going to give a reminder that, listen to the source of some of these things. And be reminded, it’s often the same people and the same tired rhetoric.
“I was just surprised after Week 1 there was such a story out there. But what’s crazy to me is to let one storyline, by a person who has no contact with me — has zero relationship — to [let] that become some sort of narrative that’s out there, that now I somehow don’t care about ball because of my Zen attitude in the offseason? That’s the bullsh** I was talking about [after the win over the Lions].”
Eventually, Rodgers closed out his expansive appearance with a simple message:
“The trolls are out there,” he said “I get it. But the truth and fact should not be replaced by conjecture — ill-founded conjecture. When it is, I’m thankful for this opportunity and for my pressers to be able to say, ‘Hey, look, just think about who’s saying these things.’ … I think all these people who are on these shows now believe they’re celebrities. They believe that they have this platform to use it to say whatever the hell they want. That’s how they garner the attention. That’s how they get promotions. That’s how they get to be on multiple networks. That’s how they get their name out there, get a blue checkmark and get to go to the Met Ball and whatever the hell’s going on. That’s the society we’re in now.”
So … that’s two weeks in the books. Rodgers’ critics have had their scathing moment, and he returned fire. With 15 more games ahead, it’s likely the first exchange won’t be the last.