Last June, Aaron Rodgers said he "definitely" planned to finish his career with the Green Bay Packers. Less than eight months later, he didn't sound quite as sure.
First things first, Rodgers must decide whether he wants to play a 19th NFL season. He said Tuesday that he hasn't reached that decision yet, a little more than a week after the Packers ended their season with an 8-9 record.
But if his plans don't intersect with what the Packers want, then he can't say for certain that he would never play for another team. In an appearance on "The Pat McAfee Show" that lasted more than an hour, Rodgers said he still thinks he can play at a high level, whether it's for the Packers or another team.
"I think I can win MVP again in the right situation," Rodgers said. "Right situation, is that Green Bay or is that somewhere else? I'm not sure. But I don't think you should shut down any opportunity. Like I said during the season, that's got to be both sides actually wanting to work together moving forward, and I think there's more conversations to be had."
Publicly, Packers coach Matt LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst have expressed an interest in having Rodgers back. Last week, Gutekunst reiterated that the three-year, $150 million contract they gave to Rodgers last March was a commitment that "wasn't certainly for this year."
Rodgers took several days last week to meet with Gutekunst, LaFleur and other Packers staff members before he left Green Bay and returned to California for the offseason. While Rodgers said he "had all the conversations I wanted to have," he did not indicate whether the Packers told him whether they planned to reload or rebuild.
"I think no player wants to be part of any type of rebuild; I said that years ago," Rodgers said. "Reloads are a lot of fun because you feel like you're close, you're only a couple guys away. This game is about relationships, it's about the players you play with and count on even if they don't maybe show up huge in the stat book."
Several of Rodgers' closest friends -- David Bakhtiari, Randall Cobb, Mason Crosby, Allen Lazard, Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan -- have uncertain futures with the team, whether it's because they will be free agents or because they have contracts that might need to be renegotiated.
"There's a lot of interesting names that we'll see if there's desire to re-sign certain guys that are glue guys in the locker room, [and that] will be an interesting conversation to be had," Rodgers said. "Take all that away, I still need to mentally get to a point where I feel 100 percent locked in and ready to play a 19th season. And if I do, then we'll rock and roll and figure that out. If I don't, then we'll go into the jungles for a while."
"I still need to mentally get to a point where I feel 100% locked in and ready to play a 19th season. And if I do, then we'll rock and roll and figure that out. If I don't, then we'll go into the jungles for a while."Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers, 39, is coming off one of his worst seasons. He had almost as many interceptions (12) as he did in the previous three seasons combined (13). After back-to-back MVP seasons, Rodgers threw for the fewest yards (3,695) in any season in which he played at least 15 games. He did not have a single 300-yard passing game. Since taking over as a starter, he had never before had a season with fewer than three 300-plus yard games. He also dealt with a broken thumb and injuries to his ribs and a knee during the season.
The Packers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2018. They lost 20-16 to the Detroit Lions in the regular-season finale when a win would've gotten Green Bay into the postseason. Had the Packers been eliminated before the finale, they might have considered shutting down Rodgers to give third-year backup Jordan Love an extended look.
"If they want to go younger and think Jordan's ready to go, then that might be the way they want to go," Rodgers said. "And if that's the case and I still want to play, then there's only one option, right? And that's to play somewhere else. If it's not and they are like, 'No, no, no, we still want you to play,' and this and that, then it'd have to be the right situation with the roster that looks like we can win it all because there's no point in coming back if you don't think you can win it all."
Rodgers gave no timeline for a decision on whether he will play in 2023. He said that he planned to make another appearance on McAfee's show next Tuesday but that he won't have any update on his status for the upcoming season then.
"They're not pressing for any type of specific answer, and I'm not mentally or emotionally at that point to give one," Rodgers said. "If I'm asked about it, I'll respond in honesty. But this is not going to be something where I'm going to respond to a bunch of inquiries about, 'What are you thinking this week?' Or 'What are you thinking next week?' It's get away from it mentally and emotionally, and then physically as your body starts to come back after a few weeks of TLC, then I think you're in a better frame of mind to contemplate your future."