Rodgers shrugs off tough talk

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains calm amid the threats of bodily harm heading into his first NFL start.

Aaron Rodgers remains unflappable.

Informed about Vikings defensive end Jared Allen's stated goal of putting his helmet in the back of Rodgers' spine, Rodgers flashed his typical easy grin. It was as if Allen had offered to pick up the tab for dinner instead of threatening bodily harm.

"They don't hurt that much when you throw a touchdown pass," Rodgers said on Friday. "Now, if you throw an incompletion or an interception, those hurt a little bit more."

Whether Rodgers remains that calm, cool and collected should he get knocked around by the Vikings' highly touted and motor-mouthed defense will be a key to Monday night's season-opening clash at Lambeau Field.

As he has said all week, Rodgers doesn't need the tough talk from the Packers' marauding neighbors to the west to get fired up.

"I don't need any additional motivation," Rodgers said. "Not when you're playing a rival like Minnesota and you're opening up on Monday night."

As he has done all week — all training camp, really, through the Brett Favre furor — Rodgers remained unfazed by everything surrounding him. Sure, this will be his first career start, but it's not like Rodgers hasn't played before. He was superb in relief of Favre in last year's showdown at Dallas, for instance.

Asked Tuesday in a conference call with reporters who cover the Vikings how he can treat this as "just another game," Rodgers' reply was simple: "It's just another game."

"It's your attitude you take into the (game), it's your focus each day in practice and in preparation with the film study you do every week," he continued. "It is just another game. Everybody outside of the locker room is gonna make it up to be a big spectacle, and that's fine. The pressure I put on myself to perform and the expectations we have as a team will stay the same. To the 53 in the locker room, it is just another game, but it's an important one to get off on the right foot."

Players from both sides of the rivalry have tried downplaying the importance of Monday's result. A loss would be be cataclysmic to Packer backers and a win would be reason to book hotel reservations to Tampa, Fla., for Vikings fanatics, but it's important to remember Monday's game is just the first of 16. Sure, it's important for reasons tangible (it's against the Packers' chief rival in the NFC North) and intangible (Rodgers can't afford an early misstep in replacing Favre), but a trip to Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII will not be decided on Monday night.

"It's the first game. A lot can happen in a season," Rodgers said Friday before giving a history lesson.

"There's injuries, there's momentum swings. You can get on a hot streak as a team, like the Giants did last year. They started out 0-2 and, if you would have asked a lot of teams — asked us about the Giants after we beat them 35-13 — you would have said that team needs to make some improvement. And they did."

Rodgers' nonchalant mind-set can only help as he begins a season in which he'll be scrutinized perhaps more than any quarterback in NFL history. The Vikings' talk is cheap. At this point, though, so is Rodgers' grin.

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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