TAMPA, Fla. – Aaron Rodgers has deep appreciation for seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady who plays well into his 40s, but doesn’t see himself following the same path.
“I’m going to do something else. I have a lot of other interests outside of the game,” said Rodgers, looking ahead to just the fifth head-to-head of teams led by the star quarterbacks, who are also friends on the field.
“Play has been really good for me. I feel like I gave everything to the game,” added 38-year-old Rodgers. “At some point it will be time to do something else, and I’m confident it will be before 45.”
Brady has already won two Super Bowls in his 40s. Less than six weeks after retiring in February, he announced that he was returning for a 23rd season to pursue “unfinished business” with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hosting Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
The league’s all-time passing leader turned 45 during training camp. What impresses Rodgers most about Brady’s longevity is how well he continues to play.
“The consistency where you’re still playing at a high level and there’s no drop-off. Every great player is afraid of turning into a real below-average player on the way out. I don’t think anyone really wants to hold on,” said Rodgers, who is in his 18th season — all with the Packers.
“Maybe some guys just want to get another year, or maybe they’re on a team where they can do a lot less,” Rodgers added. “But when you’ve performed at a high level for a long time, you try to stay there as long as possible.”
The Packers quarterback also has an admirer in Brady.
They have met four times before as starters, with Rodgers’ only win in 2014, when Brady was with the New England Patriots.
“He’s been a great player for a long time. I love watching him play. He’s also from California, so I feel like we have a bit of a connection,” Brady said. “He’s an older man now. He’s been a great player in the same place for a long time.”
Tampa Bay is 2-0 against Green Bay since Brady joined the Bucs in 2020, including a 31-26 win in the NFC championship game two seasons ago.
The Bucs are playing without main receiver Mike Evans, who is serving a one-game suspension for his role in a brawl on the field in New Orleans last week. Brady could also be without two other primary targets – Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee) – sitting out against the Saints.
“Part of the job is interacting with different people. It’s part of the demolition derby, that’s the game we play,” Brady said. “Guys are walking in and out. You have to adapt.’
Packer’s rookie recipient Christian Watson attended Plant High School in Tampa and expects to have many friends and relatives watching him on Sunday. North Dakota’s second-round pick has five catches for 43 yards in his first two games.
This won’t be his first time playing at Raymond James Stadium. Watson said he played a youth league there.
“That was absolutely exciting to play as a kid, look up and want to play in the league someday, to be able to play in an NFL stadium, that was really cool,” Watson said.
Tampa Bay starts 2-0, despite Brady not being at his best during victories in Dallas and New Orleans. They didn’t have to, as the defense limited the Cowboys to three points and only gave the Saints a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 20-10 win. The Bucs lead the NFL by 10 sacks and forced six turnovers.
Rodgers has been sacked seven times this season, which doesn’t bode well en route to a game against an opponent with a relentless pass rush.
While both teams have changed quite a bit over time since then, the Bucs defeated the Packers twice during the 2020 season — including the NFC Championship game — and amassed five sacks in each of those wins.
“They absolutely love to put in quite a bit of pressure and then they do a great job of getting the ball out,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur. “They are some of the best in the business, they always hit the ball. The guys in secondary have really good ball skills, so that creates another problem.”
Green Bay’s offensive line benefited last week from the return of tackle Elgton Jenkins, who appeared in his first game since rupturing his left anterior cruciate ligament last November 21.