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Rodgers: Packers' future looks bright

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By Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
January 8, 2014

GREEN BAY--Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers predicted that if general manager Ted Thompson can keep the bulk of the team together, the organization has a chance to be great again.

Speaking to host Jason Wilde on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN Milwaukee, Rodgers said that he didn’t see the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers Sunday as a sign the Packers were facing a rebuilding period but rather that they were on the verge of being a powerhouse.

“I think this organization understands we have a chance to be great,” Rodgers said. “We just need a couple more pieces.”

Rodgers said if you look at all the young talent the Packers have been cultivating there is room for quick growth. He said that if Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy can find a way to keep key free agents and continue to build on what the 2013 team accomplished, big things were in store.

“I think this is the end of a window and the beginning of a new one,” he said on his show. “This is the year when we can really open up a new window that can last for four or five years. It looks really bright. I think if you look at the core of our team, our offensive line is looking the way we want it, the receivers look incredible. We have a big-time back in Eddie (Lacy). Not sure what James Starks will do, (DuJuan Harris) is coming back.

“We have a lot of things that are setting up to be really good for a long time. A lot of really good young players with Sam (Shields), Micah Hyde, Casey (Hayward), when Casey comes back (from a hamstring injury) and Morgan Burnett and Sean Richardson, and veteran guys playing well, A.J. (Hawk) had his best season, Clay (Matthews), (Ryan) Pickett, (B.J.) Raji, Johnny Jolly coming back.

“This window has a chance to open up and be really bright for four or five years if you can get guys signed and keep them around. My contract is for six more years. I expect to be playing at a high level for all six of those years. We’ll see what happens after that. Maybe I’ll be able to go another three or four after that.”

Rodgers said he understood what CB Tramon Williams told a couple of reporters late in the team’s media session Monday regarding the need for more veteran experience and leadership on the field and in the locker room. Though he didn’t lobby as hard as Williams did, he agreed that it would be important for the team to stick with some of the players who have come up through the ranks.

“We all trust the judgment of Ted and his staff and Mike,” Rodgers said. “As an older player, you understand the importance of guys who have been there done that, who have the credibility, who have the leadership ability, and I think it never hurts to have more guys like that.

“Or on the same account, making sure our veteran guys who are still playing at a high level are given the opportunities to be continue to be a member of the Green Bay Packers.”

Rodgers said that now that he has turned 30 years old, he would take his off-season training to another level and expected to return next summer in the best shape of his life. He said his collarbone came out of the final two games with no further issues and expected to be ready for a full off-season of work.

He defended the Packers’ decision to hold him out of action for seven starts while the bone healed, saying that few people knew the risks of re-injury and ramifications if he suffered a complete fracture of the left collarbone.

“I think what most people didn’t understand about this injury (is the risk) isn’t just a displacement, if you re-injure it it’s a displaced collarbone and you have surgery and a plate inserted and three months later (you’re back),” he said. “No, that’s not— that’s like some perfect dream world where there is Elysium. There’s a lot of complications that could have come with it.

“The rehab is more like five months, which you’re missing organized team activities potentially or at least (off-season workouts). And then you have complications from the plate being in your collarbone. There’s still opportunity for a non-union of the bone, (where) it doesn’t come all the way together so that you could have injections. You could have a reaction to the injections. There’s that and more.

“We were handcuffed by the weekly scan that we saw which did not show a healthy bone yet. It was frustrating. I can promise you it was more frustrating for me than any fan out there or any coach. Nobody wanted to be out there more than I did. Nobody is more competitive than I am. You can ask my friends that. It was very difficult. But ultimately I was able to get back on the field and have some fun again.”

Rodgers lamented that he did not play his best football against the 49ers Sunday and accepted responsibility for the offense’s failures. He said the offense could have put the game away with a late fourth-quarter drive or at least given the Packers one more shot at winning it.

But instead of scoring a touchdown, it settled for a field goal that tied the game at 20-20 and allowed the 49ers to drive for a game-winning field goal with no time left.

“Our defense played well enough for us to win,” Rodgers said. “We didn’t score enough points on offense. What I look at is the performance I had wasn’t good enough to win. I put a lot on my shoulders. The team expects greatness out of me every week. They didn’t get it on Sunday, so I’m disappointed about that.

“We made some plays, got back in the game. Took the lead and we had another big drive to put points on the board. I felt good about both fourth-quarter drives. Didn’t think that would be our last drive of the season there getting down there and kicking the tying field goal.

“It was frustrating to watch those last five-plus minutes, six minutes, and not be able to do anything and then to see them celebrate on the field. That’s frustrating. If you’d have told our offense that our defense was going to hold them to 23 points, I think everybody in there would have said we’d have won.”



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