Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Aaron Rodgers Finding 'Balance' in NFL and Life

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterAugust 22, 2018

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 09:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers participates in warmups prior to a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field on August 9, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Packers defeated the Titans 31-17.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

This week, in a special edition of the 10-Point Stance, we take bit of a detour and present a B/R interview with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Is the most talented quarterback in the history of football about to get even better?

Aaron Rodgers is a Super Bowl MVP, a two-time league MVP and has the greatest combination of passing accuracy, athleticism and football acumen the position has ever known.

And this season, it's possible Rodgers will be leading perhaps the most talented offense he's had around him in Green Bay. The addition of tight Jimmy Graham has added another formidable layer to the Packers attack. It's like getting a season-long power-up.

"On paper … this offense could be incredible," Rodgers told B/R in a recent interview. "We just have to keep proving it. The [2011] offense was very dynamic, but this year we have the X-factor in Jimmy. He understands [defenses] so well. He can catch anything, and he's impossible to cover."

Graham, a five-time Pro Bowler who ranks sixth among active players in touchdown receptions, promises to form a pairing with receiver Davante Adams that could help Rodgers become MVP again. And not only because of their considerable pass-catching abilities, but also because they are two of the smartest targets in the game.

"There is paper football and there is real football," Rodgers said. "Paper football is in a classroom and on a screen. You diagram plays and talk and analyze. Then there is real football, where the players actually move.

"Jimmy can go from paper football to real football as easy as any player I've been around. He really understands coverages and knows how to attack defenses as the play unfolds. Davante is the same. We've never had a go-to guy who gets 20 targets a game. We usually run our system and go to the open guy. Now we have multiple go-to guys."

Jimmy Graham has one catch this preseason for the Packers: a touchdown against the Steelers.
Jimmy Graham has one catch this preseason for the Packers: a touchdown against the Steelers.Mike Roemer/Associated Press/Associated Press

This isn't the first time the Packers have rolled out quality receivers. Jordy Nelson was, and is, a terrific one. But in the modern era of the franchise, Green Bay hasn't had two players of the physical skill of Adams and Graham in the offense at the same time.

Adams made his first Pro Bowl last season after compiling 74 catches for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns. And over the past two years, he has caught 22 touchdowns. Graham set the Seahawks franchise record for most touchdowns by a tight end in 2017 with 10.

Combine them with Rodgers' penchant for making even pedestrian receivers into productive weapons, and you understand the rampant optimism.

Rodgers believes the greatest test will be for him and the Packers offense to not rely on Graham's and Adams' talent alone.

"The biggest challenges are finding consistency in all phases of the game and continueing to be creative offensively," Rodgers said. "Get the ball to Jimmy, to Davante, to Randall [Cobb] in space. Put them in spots to succeed."

Assuming Rodgers does that, will it be enough to propel Green Bay into the thick of the conference title chase?

"I think we can make some noise," Rodgers said. "The NFC is loaded, but we feel like we'll be right in the mix."

Much of that prognosis depends, as it often does with the Packers, on health. Rodgers is coming off a broken collarbone, Adams missed the final two games last year because of a concussion and Graham is 31-years-old.

But for now, that's a concern that hasn't come to pass. The potential is sunny, and Rodgers' attitude reflects that. impossible to say for certain, but I feel like this is the most settled, focused and mentally strong version of the NFL Rodgers. He seems as happy and as confident as I've ever seen him.

Aaron Rodgers starts this season healthy after missing nine games in 2017 with a broken collarbone.
Aaron Rodgers starts this season healthy after missing nine games in 2017 with a broken collarbone.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

That's one reason why he's not distressed over his contract, the current version of which is set to expire after the 2019 season. The team and Rodgers are discussing a long-term extension that would make him the highest paid player in football.

When I prefaced a question about it by saying "Sorry to ask about your contract," he interrupted me.

"Don't ascribe any discomfort about discussing my contract to me," Rodgers said. "I realize it's a topic of interest, and my thought is I'm just going to play football and let my agent handle the rest. Right now, there's nothing new."

What is of interest to Rodgers is his mindset, which is in a good place after what he feels was an important offseason for him personally.

"I always feel like you have to have good balance in your life," Rodgers said. "It's something I'm really beginning to embrace. The vacations I went on this offseason, the time with close friends and family, all make me a better person.

"This offseason was big in terms of that. Seeing the Dalai Lama. I took a trip to Africa [to Lusaka, Zambia to help fit children and adults with hearing aids]. Spending time with some teammates outside of football. All of those things help me grow as a person and make me a better football player."

There is nothing more dangerous in sports than a player with unique abilities, good talent around him and satisfaction with his place in the universe.

ESPN @espn

Aaron Rodgers gave the Dalai Lama a football and a Green Bay Packers hat and LOOK AT THEIR SMILES. https://t.co/PDvbUA3yXI

Maybe that is why Rodgers was comfortable enough to be one of the few white players to publicly and fully voice his support for those players peacefully protesting social injustices during the national anthem.

Rodgers recently told Mike Silver of NFL Media  that players should ignore most attacks on them. Rodgers told me he wasn't speaking specifically of President Donald Trump, and says his main point is that there is strength in ignoring some of the vitriol on Twitter.

"I never mentioned Trump's name," he said. "My point is that there is power in indifference. Twitter can be negative and ugly. I've learned some tough lessons about responding to people on Twitter.

"I think you can just ignore some of the negativity. Sometimes you don't have a choice, but many times, you do. Sometimes you just have to say, 'I'm going to ignore this person.' There is power in that."

There is also power in being Aaron Rodgers, and this season might just show how much.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL. 


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.