Older, Richer Rodgers Realizing QB Legacy

With eight seasons in, Aaron Rodgers is already among the top quarterbacks in Packers' history. With a new contract in hand, his legend figures to only grow. During a lucrative offseason for the MVP quarterback, he had a chance to get a little reflective.

Believe it or not, Aaron Rodgers is the longest-tenured member of the Green Bay Packers.

With the retirement of Donald Driver this offseason, Rodgers, 29, assumes a new fatherly status of sorts in the locker room. Though teammate Ryan Pickett, 33, has more years in the league (13) than Rodgers, no one on the Packers' training camp roster has worn the green and gold uniform longer. That fact has not been lost on Rodgers.

"I'm one of the older guys now," said Rodgers back in April after signing a five-year, $110 million contract extension. "I'm not the oldest yet but the longest-tenured Packer now, and it's an interesting position to be in. I've seen a lot of friends go to other places and you realize how special this place is when you hear some of the stories from those guys, and you also realize how short this period is in our lives and you make the most of those relationships."

A new deal means Rodgers likely will play in Green Bay through the 2019 season. Should he make it that long, he would match Ray Nitschke in team annals for service (15 years) and would be just one year behind Brett Favre and Bart Starr for the all-time franchise mark.

"I've played eight (seasons) – five as a starter – and I think I have eight left in my legs and body, at least, at a high level," said Rodgers. "So, this is like many deals, a lot of times you don't see a deal all the way through if you're playing well. It's just the nature of some of these contracts. That's a long way off. In order to even get to that conversation, it's going to take many years in a row at a consistently high level of play for me, which I expect to do and I'm going to get myself in the best shape mentally and physically to do that, and hopefully we can have that conversation in seven years where I can still play and maybe we can keep this thing going."

Rodgers would love to be mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned two greatest quarterbacks in Packers history. If not by his accomplishments on the field, he is taking measures off the field to do so.

On more than one occasion this offseason, Rodgers has spoken about it being time to mend the rift between Favre and the Packers organization. He did his part by joining Favre on stage at the NFL Honors in February to present an award on a nationally televised show.

Rodgers also has spoken many times about what a great mentor Starr has been and continues to be. He made an appearance with Starr in May at a MACC Fund event in Milwaukee and a week later said this about Starr in an interview on the Jim Rome radio show:

"Getting to know Bart has been a pleasure for me," Rodgers told Rome. "It started in 2008. He actually sent me an e-mail during a difficult summer. It was a very positive e-mail. And since that time he's been nothing but supportive, him and his wife. The thing that I told him that I'd like to reiterate is when you think about Bart Starr and you talk about Bart, more times than not the thing you talk about is the man that he is. He's an incredible guy with a great heart. People sometimes forget the number of championships that he won, the first two Super Bowls, and MVPs and what a great quarterback he was, but often, it's a testament to him, the first thing you talk about when you talk about Bart Starr is what kind of person he is."

The e-mail Rodgers spoke of from Starr came during a tumultuous time in Rodgers' young career and in Packers' history. The summer of 2008, of course, was when Favre decided to unretire for the first time. But instead of taking him back, the Packers traded Favre to the New York Jets, going with Rodgers as their starter. Staunch Favre fans were upset, as was Favre, who hid his true emotions at the time. A year later, Favre retired, and then un-retired again going the rival Minnesota Vikings in a revenge-type move.

Shortly after that, in an exclusive with Packer Report, Starr was asked for his thoughts about Favre going to one of the Packers chief rivals after spending 16 years in Green Bay. But instead of sounding off any displeasure for the move, like ex-Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton did around the same time, Starr answered with a compliment - not to Favre, but to Rodgers.

"Well, I'll say this: they've got a great guy up their right now," Starr said from his office in Alabama. "I think Aaron is doing a wonderful job and is going to be a great quarterback for the Packers."

Through eight seasons with the Packers, Starr already had won two NFL titles. Though his ninth season (1964) produced just an 8-5-1 record, the Packers quickly rebounded to win another NFL title and two Super Bowls over the next three seasons.

Favre, on the other hand, had one Super Bowl championship to his credit and another appearance in the Super Bowl through eight seasons in Green Bay. His ninth season (2000), like Starr's, was more off a transition year with a new coach (Mike Sherman) coming in and the Packers finishing 9-7. But the Packers made the playoffs over the next four seasons seeing their best shot at a Super Bowl slip through their fingers in Philadelphia in the 2003 post-season.

Rodgers, about to enter his ninth season, might be somewhere in between Starr and Favre in their ninth seasons. He has a Super Bowl and an MVP. But the biggest difference might be him taking on a bigger leadership role than the one he already had since the Packers lost not one, not two, but three team leaders this offseason in Driver, Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson.

"Having the respect of my teammates and the fans means a lot to me," said Rodgers during a line of questioning on the day the Packers announced his contract extension. "This is a special place to play. You look on the walls around the facility as I was walking around a few minutes ago, realizing you're among greatness. There have been a lot of players who have come before you and allowed you to have this kind of opportunity that we all have and I have. It's fun to be a part of a special organization like that with an incredible fan base and the relationship with my teammates is very important to me. I think respect is something that's very hard to get from all the guys, but it takes your character being tested at times and you playing well on the field. I think I've done those things and the guys respect me."

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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com

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