After winning MVP, Aaron Rodgers says ‘I don’t fear retirement’

Speaking after NFL Honors on Thursday night, he didn’t rule out walking away from the sport — even as he talked about the bitter taste left by the Packers’ divisional round playoff loss to the 49ers.

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers warms up before facing the Bears in December.

Mike Roemer, AP Photos

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — In the end, none of the things Aaron Rodgers did off the field mattered. Not his waiting all summer to tell the Packers what he wanted from them. Not his declining the COVID-19 vaccine or the subsequent media appearances in which he painted himself as the victim of a “woke mob.” Not the “Jeopardy!” hosting gig or, in an oh-so-2021 moment, holding his foot up during a Zoom call to try to prove he didn’t have “COVID toe.”

At the NFL Honors event Thursday night, the NFL made official what the rest of the league had seen all season: Rodgers was its MVP for the second year in a row. His résumé screamed it — an 111.9 passer rating, best in the NFL for the second straight year, as was his touchdown percentage, with the Packers scoring on 7% of his passes. For the second straight season, the Packers also went 13-3 in games Rodgers started; he missed one game in a 17-game season because of coronavirus protocols.

There’s no reason to think Rodgers, who turns 39 in December, can’t be MVP again in 2022. Heck, Tom Brady won a Super Bowl at 43.

The question is, where will Rodgers do it? He said he’d make a decision about his future over the next five weeks, before free agency starts March 16. Speaking after Thursday’s event, he didn’t rule out walking away from the sport, even as he talked about the bitter taste left by the Packers’ divisional-round playoff loss to the 49ers.

“I don’t fear retirement,” he said. “I don’t fear moving on.”

Rodgers said there’s “definitely a lot to weigh” in the next few weeks.

“What does it feel like to commit to a season, if that’s what I want to do?” he said. “The good thing is I still feel like my body is in a good place.”

The Bears, more than any other team, can’t wait to find out what he decides. In an offseason that saw them start over, hiring general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus, there would be no bigger boost than Rodgers leaving the division. In October, after running for a touchdown at Soldier Field, he screamed at Bears fans: “All my [expletive] life, I own you.” He can’t do that as easily from the AFC. Or the couch.

Rodgers could decide to force a trade out of Green Bay with one year left on his contract. But he went out of his way Thursday to praise the man with whom he feuded, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, saying there was “so much growth” and it “didn’t go unnoticed.”

While that keeps the door open for him to return to Green Bay, it might not be practical. The Packers are projected to be $48.9 million over the 2022 salary cap — only the Saints are in worse shape — before factoring in an extension for all-world receiver Davante Adams, whose contract is up. Rodgers wants no part of a rebuild.

As it is, his success already has changed the division. Last month, the Broncos hired away Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, with whom Rodgers is close, fueling speculation that Denver could be Rodgers’ next home.

Eberflus took Rodgers’ position coach, Luke Getsy, and made him the Bears’ new offensive coordinator.

“Luke is younger than me but feels like an older brother, as far as where he is in life,” Rodgers said. “[I’m] excited for him and his opportunity.”

Getsy was careful not to make too many direct comparisons to Rodgers or the rival Packers on Thursday when he was introduced to Chicago reporters. Asked what he learned from Rodgers — and what Rodgers learned from him — he paused.

“Hopefully a lot,” he said.

On Thursday, the NFL told us what we already knew.

The next five weeks will tell us more.

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