Aaron Rodgers has emerged from his darkness retreat, and he is coming closer and closer to making a play-or-retire decision for the 2023 NFL season. The Packers' star quarterback spoke on the record for the first time since the retreat, and he emphasized the importance of making his decision in the coming days. The start of the NFL's new league year is two weeks away, March 15, but teams can begin talking to free agent two days prior on March 13.
"For everybody involved directly and indirectly, it's best for a decision earlier," Rodgers said Wednesday on the "Aubrey Marcus Podcast." "I feel really good about the conversations that are going to be had, that have been had with important people in my life that help orient me... But I'm not looking for somebody to tell me what what the answer is. All the answers are right inside me. I touched many of the feelings on both sides of the darkness. I'm thankful for that time. There's a finality to the decision. I don't make it lightly. I don't want to drag anybody around... I'll make a decision soon enough and we'll go down that road. I'll be really excited about it."
Another party who will also be really excited about Rodgers' making a final decision about his future is the Packers front office. General manager Brian Gutekunst spoke Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine about the urgency in needing to hear from Rodgers soon.
"He's a great player, but until we have those conversations, I think all options are on the table," Gutekunst said Tuesday. "We need to have those conversations. We want what's best for the Green Bay Packers, what's best for him so we'll get to that coming up. Free agency's coming up here. That's an important part of what we're doing, so it'd be nice to have some answers before then, but until we have any conversations, we're still in a good spot."
Rodgers made it sound like he will help the Packers gain some clarity into their quarterback situation prior to free agency given that he very clearly recalls the "tension" from Brett Favre's retirement decision saga.
"It's best for anybody who has an interest in this to make a decision sooner rather than later," Rodgers said. "I remember before [Brett] Favre retired, there were times in April and May, we weren't sure if he was going to come back because he didn't come to any of the offseason program. Then in 2008, he actually did retire in March and then said, 'No,no,no' in June after OTAs, 'I actually want to come back and play.' That's when he was traded to the Jets. There was obviously a lot of tension that summer."
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Following a 2022 season in which the Packers missed the playoffs for the first time under head coach Matt LaFleur and Rodgers had a career-low in passer rating (91.8), he said he spent different parts of his darkness retreat contemplating what life would look look like if he decided to retire and if he decided to continue being an NFL quarterback.
"I spent parts of a couple of days what it would be like to retire and imagining what it would be like to continue to play," Rodgers said. "Instead of trying so hard to be 'I'm not just a football player, what if I just embraced I am a football player?' And look how f---ing beautiful its impact on my life. When you've played as long as I have, I think there's something inside of us that wants to say 'I'm going to be totally fine when I'm done playing. I've got nothing left to prove. I've accomplished a ton in this sport, and I have. I don't need to play for anything other than the joy. I'm going to be fine in retirement. I've got a lot going on and a lot I could transition to.'
"But sitting in the darkness with your thoughts...a lot of fear and insecurity came with what retirement looks like that I hadn't really acknowledged or thought was there," Rodgers continued. "I thought 'I'm fine, I've got my foundation, philanthropic stuff I want to be a part of, business stuff I've been cultivating for years now, I have dreams outside the game, I want to travel, I want get body back and not wake up hurting.' All these thoughts as a justification for retirement...there were some deep fears and insecurities with retirement that I had to trace back to childhood or back to college, or back to early days in the NFL, and I had to work though those moments, those insecurities as they came up. After five or six hours of sitting through all that, I came to sweetness with the reality I was working through that day, which was retirement and what that would look like.
"The scary was retirement, and the unknown was going back and playing and what does that mean? Is that Green Bay or somewhere else? If that's somewhere else, what is it like being somewhere else?"Now it feels like there are two very beautiful options that both feel really nourishing and special."
For Rodgers, it appears as Guteknust said Tuesday, that all options are on the table.