As training camps open in the NFL, many have been watching the events taking place at St. Norbert College, a private liberal arts college in De Pere, Wisconsin, about a 10-minute drive from Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Is Aaron Rodgers — who reported to training camp after giving every indication he wouldn’t play for the Packers again — really back?
Last season’s NFL Most Valuable Player, under contract to the Packers through 2023, is reportedly upset about the drafting of quarterback prospect Jordan Love last year and the perceived lack of communication and respect the future Hall of Fame player believes he is entitled to.
It got crazy enough that there were stories Rodgers, 37, would rather retire than return to Green Bay.
It’s a strange position for Packers team president Mark Murphy to find himself in — alienated from the team’s top player. And make no mistake about it, Murphy has not endeared himself to Rodgers.
Speaking at an event last month at Lambeau Field, Murphy remembered a comment about Rodgers that the late Ted Thompson, a longtime Packers general manager, had shared with him. “He’s a complicated fella,” Thompson said of Rogers, according to Murphy. “So, I’ll just say that,” Murphy told NBC26.com.
Murphy, a former All-Pro safety who played for the Washington team that won the Super Bowl in 1983, was once a vocal spokesman for players in the league as an NFL Players Association leader. If anyone should be able to connect to his players, you would think it would be Murphy, who is well aware of how heavy-handed league management can be.
The 66-year-old executive was on the Washington roster from 1977 to 1984. In an interview for my book, “Hail Victory,” Murphy told me how his days with the franchise came to an end following a knee injury several years after the 1982 players’ strike.
“About a week after my injury, (owner Jack Kent) Cooke was at one of our practices, and he walks over to me and asks me, ‘How’s the knee?’” Murphy said. “I said it would be a few weeks and he answered, ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter Mark. You’ll never play again.’ And I never played again.”
That Jack Kent Cooke was a complicated fella.
Maybe the lack of connection between Rodgers and Murphy is because of their very different experiences coming into the league. Rodgers was drafted in the first round of the 2005 draft out of California. But he wasn’t selected by Green Bay until the 24th pick (one before Washington‘s choice of quarterback Jason Campbell). It was considered by many an embarrassing slight to Rodgers, who, according to observers, had been expected to go early in the first round. He thought he would go No. 1 to his favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers. But they opted to draft Alex Smith instead.
Murphy was signed by Washington as a free agent out of Colgate in 1977. Rodgers may have felt disrespected by his introduction to the NFL, but he’s got nothing on Murphy.
“Back then, it was 12 rounds and held over two days. George Allen called me and said, ‘We really like you, Mark. We want to have you here. We want to draft you. We’re going to get you an airplane ticket and fly you down here and have a press conference and announce you.’ They put me up at a hotel near Dulles airport. I didn’t really know what was going on. I watched television and saw that the Redskins had two picks in the draft on the first day, and I wasn’t one of them. I figured I would be drafted on the second day.
“Then early that day they got me up and about a half dozen other players they had there,” Murphy said. “They drove us around in a van and gave us a tour of the city. None of us really knew what was going on. We had lunch downtown, saw Washington, and later in the afternoon, they took us out to Redskin Park. They put us all in one room, and then called us in for a meeting, one at a time. They told us that the draft had just ended. You haven’t been drafted, but we want to sign you as a free agent. George was hiding us, hoping that no other teams would get in touch with us. George called me his 13th round draft pick.”
Even among union brothers past and present, there is a pecking order.
You can understand, then, why Mark Murphy thinks Aaron Rodgers is a “complicated fella.”
You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.