Rodgers ready to handle the heat

Aaron Rodgers told the media at the team's annual Fan Fest that he embraces the opportunity to follow Brett Favre as quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. Matt Tevsh was at Rodgers' press conference Saturday and offers his thoughts.

This weekend marked the start of sorts for the Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay.

No, the Green Bay Packers were not playing, practicing, or even preparing. They were hosting their annual two-day Fan Fest at Lambeau Field, and the spotlight guest on hand was Rodgers, making his first public appearance since Brett Favre officially announced his retirement on Thursday.

Introduced Friday on stage to the masses, Rodgers noticed a different reaction from the fans now that he is the No. 1 guy.

"I think my ovation last night was a little bit bigger than usual," he said on Saturday.

Rodgers, a first-round pick of the Packers in 2005, has waited three years to play, sitting behind Favre. He will finally get his chance to lead the Packers at quarterback this coming season after seeing limited duty as a backup in three seasons.

Following a legend like Favre is almost a no-win situation for Rodgers. While he seems to have the fans' support, he will no doubt be unfairly criticized at times because of who came before him. Though he has yet to see his first game as the starter, he has already shown great perspective on his situation.

"I'm always going to be compared to Brett, obviously," said Rodgers. "I just need to be my own quarterback, my own man, though. I think the most important thing on Tuesday (when news broke of Favre's retirement) for me was the text I got from my teammates, just the encouragement. I've always felt like they've believed in me, just because they see my work ethic, but just to have that reinforced by some of the text messages and calls I got was pretty special."

Several of Rodgers' teammates spoke glowingly on Saturday about their new leader at quarterback. Their words had a genuine, almost comforting tone in a time of sadness for many Packers' fans. Though Rodgers has not yet played extended time, he has already won over his team it appears.

"(It's) just the way he carries himself," said defensive end Aaron Kampman. "Quarterbacks have to have something to them. I don't know if you can define it, but everyone kind of knows when they have it or not. Aaron has that. It's a leadership quality. It's a way of pulling guys in and making them believe that they can be something. A lot of it stems from the competitiveness, and I think he's very competitive. I don't know when that comes, but you see a man day in and day out and he displays those things, obviously you're going to gravitate towards them. Now that he has the opportunity to be the guy, I think we'll see even more of that come to grow."

Added wide receiver Donald Driver: "He's an adult now. He's making himself look like Brad Pitt now with the long hair and stuff like that, so he's gone from a kid to becoming a grown man. If you watch him in meetings now, I mean, when I looked at him when he first came in 2005, you can see in him that now he's like, ‘This is what I've gotta do.' He basically leads the room. I mean, he'll come down with me and sit down with me and we'll go over plays after plays after plays, and he didn't do that his first year. He didn't do that his second year. But I think last year he was more trying to learn the system and get everything done because he never knew when his time was going to come. And that time came against Dallas."

Rodgers will need to have more performances like he did against the Cowboys last season. In relief of an injured Favre, he nearly led the Packers to a big comeback victory throwing for 201 yards and a touchdown on 18 of 26 passing. Until he shows production like that consistently, he will always have his doubters, but at the least, he has put in the work to be successful and is ready to handle the heat.

Rodgers even sought out the advice of former quarterbacks Steve Young and Rich Gannon, whom both saw significant time as backups before going on to great careers, to help in the transition in following Favre.

Though he has played in only six games, Rodgers has already dealt with the criticism of being injury-prone and gave this response to such a label on Saturday:

"If you don't start every game for this team I think you're going to get labeled that because Brett's been doing it for so long," he said. "I'm going to get myself in the best shape possible. I feel like I could've played against Detroit (in the regular season finale) last year and he held me out. That being said, I think both my injuries are things that can happen to anybody, so I'm just going to get myself in great shape, and hopefully with a little good luck, I can stay healthy for 17 weeks."

Rodgers suffered a broken foot against the Patriots two years ago, and tweaked his hamstring in practice at the end of last season. Those have really been his only setbacks. Other than that, he has continued to improve as a player without seeing much action on game day.

Coming into the league with a perception of being a little cocky, Rodgers has matured and gained a much greater confidence in himself. That much is evident to those around him. He knows that there are things he can control and things he cannot – like the comparisons to Favre – which is just fine with him.

"I'm not Brett Favre," he said. "If they want me to be the next Brett Favre or Brett Favre, I'm not going to be him. I'm Aaron Rodgers. That's who I am. I'm going to be the best quarterback I can be, and he did it his way and I'm going to do it my way and hopefully I can be successful."

All signs are at least pointing in that direction.

Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

Packer Report Top Stories