Over the weekend, when Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy addressed fan questions in his monthly exchange on the team website, there was some public messaging that resonated loudly in the team’s impasse with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The most headline-grabby statement from Murphy about his star quarterback — which came in somewhat unprompted fashion — was that the situation with Rodgers has divided the fan base. It was an interesting, albeit unscientific point of reflection. But further into his exchange with fans, Murphy shared two far more important pieces of information. First, the Packers aren’t budging on keeping Rodgers in the fold “in 2021 and beyond." And second, Murphy made a point of giving general manager Brian Gutekunst his full backing, to the point that he even appeared to credit the GM for fielding some of the Pro Bowl players that were drafted by Gutekunst’s predecessor, Ted Thompson.
Make no mistake, there was a message in all of this. One that makes the franchise’s stance clear just days before Tuesday kickoff of mandatory minicamp: Green Bay’s decision-makers are dug in when it comes to Rodgers. He’s not going anywhere.
Tuesday, Rodgers gets his chance to respond. And that response will lack any ambiguity.
Either Rodgers shows up in time for this week’s practices, which would effectively end any pursuit of a trade, or he skips the camp entirely, which would ratchet up pressure to resolve the impasse heading into the break before training camp opens in late July. Given that Rodgers has skipped organized team activities this offseason and that Murphy just addressed the alleged fan divide over the issue, it would be a bigger surprise for Rodgers to attend than to bypass the camp.
But his lack of attendance would also be his biggest statement yet in the saga, which has been simmering since the end of the season but only featured one public statement of vague unhappiness by the quarterback in May. Skipping mandatory camp for the first time in his 16-year career — and potentially incurring a $93,085 fine in the process — would be his most committed statement of the offseason. One that says (with both his body and his money) to the Packers: I’m just as dug in as you are.
What it really means in the larger picture is debatable. The Packers have already endured all this for more than a month, and the nature of the questions about Rodgers won’t really change if he’s not in minicamp. The team’s leaders have already admitted that there is a problem and they believe they’re working to fix it. That philosophy doesn’t have to change this week, even if it means the league’s MVP isn’t around to work with his teammates.
Instead, what the Packers can do — and likely will do if Rodgers is absent — is the same thing they’ve been doing since organized team activities have started. They’ll talk about second-year quarterback Jordan Love and highlight whatever progress he’s making with the first-team offense. They’ll deflect questions about Rodgers by saying they’re working to fix the problem. And they’ll rinse and repeat what Murphy already said publicly last weekend, that Rodgers is the planned starter for 2021 and that Gutekunst has the support of the franchise.
Realistically, the person whose stance gets most amplified or altered this week is Rodgers himself. Especially if he declines to attend minicamp. First, he'll have showcased his resolve in the most resounding way he can in an offseason: by simply not spending any time in the team’s offseason infrastructure. That’s a loud statement, especially from the league's MVP. Second, it will set the stage for the team’s break before training camp, turning the remainder of the offseason into an anxiety-ridden contemplation about whether Rodgers will sit out of training camp, too.
Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle is what ends up happening on the field this week if Rodgers isn’t in attendance. If Love showcases significant strides running the Packers offense — and with reporters actually witnessing it rather than hearing about it — then there’s a chance the Packers could go into the break before training camp either more emboldened to hold onto Rodgers, or more willing to consider trading him. Conversely, if Love spends minicamp illustrating that he’s not close to taking over for Rodgers, it’s going to create multiple pressure points on both Murphy and Gutekunst. Not only will the media and fan base know the Packers are not ready to lose Rodgers, but the coaching staff will both know it and then have to walk a tightrope answering for it.
If that sounds like a lot riding on one minicamp, it’s because it is. For the Packers, their front office, their second-year quarterback and their coaching staff. One way or another, this is going to be a memorable week in Green Bay. Either one that repairs the franchise in the coming months, or breaks it entirely.
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