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Friday, June 29, 2012

Chosen NFL's No. 1 Player, Rodger's calls it 'Humbling'

Thanks to Wes Hodkiewicz and the Green Bay Press Gazette for this. Link to their site follows.
In the eyes of his peers, nobody in the National Football League does it better than Aaron Rodgers.
Coming off his first MVP season, the Green Bay Packers quarterback was selected as the top player in NFL Network’s annual Top 100 poll, voted on and determined by current NFL players.
Rodgers, who climbed from 11th-place last season, saw his stock rise after quarterbacking Green Bay to a 15-1 regular-season record while completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns and six interceptions. Rodgers also rushed for 257 yards with three additional touchdowns. His 122.5 passer rating was a NFL record, surpassing Peyton Manning’s mark of 121.1 set in 2005.
“It’s very humbling,” Rodgers said in post-show interview with NFL Network. “It’s a great honor anytime you’re recognized with that professional respect from your peers, that really means a lot to me, so I have to thank them for the votes. Obviously, this is in a recognition that doesn’t get done without an incredible group of people around you. That’s often lost when the focus is on one individual. My teammates, my coaches, our tens of thousands of owners that we have there in Green Bay and across the country, I have to give them a lot of things, as well.”
Saints quarterback Drew Brees finished as the runner-up with Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson taking third and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in fourth. New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis rounded out the top five and was the highest defensive player selected.
The one missing piece for Rodgers was the Lombardi Trophy. Despite a 15-1 regular-season record and a lengthy undefeated run, the Packers fell 37-20 in the NFC Divisional round to the New York Giants, who used the win to catapult them to the Super Bowl championship.
“It’s all about championships,” Rodgers said. “It’s about winning championships and it doesn’t matter other than championships. It doesn’t matter other than proceeding how you do in the regular season. It’s about how you’re playing at the end of the season because championships are what you’re remembered for. We tasted that feeling in 2010-11 and it was a special run. You get in that mode when you come into the next season where you feel like that’s going to happen every year and you realize how special that time was and how badly it makes you want to get back to that feeling and that stage. I think last year we slipped a little bit and got comfortable, and hopefully this year people will talk about the Giants and other teams – the Saints, Niners and Eagles making a comeback – some of those other teams and we can kind of fly under the radar and be the same kind of team we were a couple years back.”
The 28-year-old Rodgers was the sixth Packer to be selected to this year’s list, along with Clay Matthews (27 down from 19), Charles Woodson (36 down from 16), Greg Jennings (56 up from 74), and newcomers Jordy Nelson (80) and John Kuhn (92). Former Packers fullback Vonta Leach came in 45th for the Baltimore Ravens, up from 65th last year.
Here were some of Rodgers’ other thoughts during the 7-minute interview with the NFL Network panel:
On utilizing Jordy Nelson more in the Packers’ offense:
“I don’t know how much more we can make him a focus. He had 1,300 yards, 15 touchdowns, so it’s tough to do the same kind of thing year after year. It takes a lot of hard work and teams are going to be paying a little more attention to him. We lost Greg (Jennings) last year for a few games, but he still had a solid year. James Jones had a career high in touchdowns caught. We still have one of the top tight ends in the game in Jermichael Finely. Obviously, Donald Driver, fresh off his Mirror Ball championship, is back with us. Randall Cobb has done some great things, so there’s a lot of weapons for us on offense. You look forward to making them all happy, but having Jordy, a guy who really understands the game so well, practices well, great teammate. He can only make other guys better because you start focusing on him more and leave those other guys in one-on-one matchups, we feel pretty good about that.”
On the biggest pressure for next season:
“I think it has to be to repeat, as we saw last year, it’s tough. You have to be playing the right way at the right time. We weren’t last year as we had been the previous year. The Giants went into the playoffs hot with a hot quarterback and the defense making some plays. They made it all the way to the championship game and played the best football, so that’s kind of the goal every year. That’s the most difficult part of this game.”
On being on the same level as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees:
“I’m very humbled by the distinction from my peers. It means a lot to me. It’s a big accomplishment to have that kind of respect from them. Personally, there are so many incredible players on that list. Often the quarterback in our game gets a lot of the focus, but if you look at that list all the way down to 100, it’s a great thing for the league. There’s some many great players, great young players, great guys in the middle of their career and veterans playing at a high level, as well. I’m fortunate and blessed to have this recognition, but Tom (Brady) to me is still that high water mark that I’ve been trying to get to. The way Drew (Brees) has played the last couple years, especially breaking the record last year, he’s been playing incredible. Those are guys whose careers I’d like to model my career after.”
On what to expect from him now with a full training camp and offseason:
“I think a lot was made about the joke I made about the offseason workouts, but I think in general the fact we have such great leadership in Green Bay and it starts at the top with Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy, and the kind of guys we brought in. It’s a family atmosphere. It’s guys who really care about the game and care about being successful, and that’s what made us have a fast start last year. Mike has surrounded himself with a number of great teachers of the game and guys who played the game before. I think they did a great job in a short amount of time of getting our guys ready to play. Once we got on the field that leadership took over with guys like Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, myself, Ryan Grant, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson. Those guys really stepped up and led by example, and we’re able to help us start fast.”
Various NFL players also provided excerpts during Rodgers’ selection video with their take on the Packers’ quarterback. Here are a few:
“He’s arm is like a toy, he can do whatever he wants to do with it,” Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona wide receiver
“To make the quarterback position look effortless, that’s a very hard thing to do,” Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo quarterback
“He’s played the quarterback position as good as you could play. I don’t think you could play it any better,” Alex Smith, San Francisco quarterback who was drafted ahead of Rodgers in 2005
“He’s obviously a great pocket passer, but on top of that, he can run that ball,” Nick Barnett, Buffalo linebacker and former teammate.

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