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Packers' leaders unified on wanting Rodgers back

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Published in Breaking News
Monday, 24 January 2022 18:37

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's not only Matt LaFleur who wants Aaron Rodgers back as the Green Bay Packers quarterback next season. The coach said it's unanimous among the organization's top decision-makers, too.

While LaFleur said after the 13-10 loss Saturday to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional playoff round that "we'd be crazy not to want him back here," it was not clear if he was speaking only for himself or also on behalf of team president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and director of football operations Russ Ball.

"Every conversation that I've been involved in with Gutey and Russ and Mark, we're all on the same page there," LaFleur said Monday. "There's no debate."

LaFleur addressed a variety of subjects -- from the early playoff exit to the plan for fixing their special teams to bringing back Davante Adams to the health of All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari -- but a large part of his 43-minute news conference to wrap up the season was spent on Rodgers' future with the Packers. LaFleur said he met with Rodgers on Monday, and although he wouldn't reveal any details from that conversation, he said he won't rush the QB into a decision.

"I want to be respectful of his process," LaFleur said. "Whatever he needs to go through to make the best decision for himself, and certainly we would love for him to be a Packer and be a Packer to the day he decides to retire."

The big what-if, however, is what if Rodgers doesn't want to play for the Packers again, doesn't want to retire and wants to play for another team?

"I haven't even been part of any of those discussions, nor have I -- like I said last year -- allowed my mind to kind of get to that point," LaFleur said. "I just want to do everything in our power to try to get him back here and making sure he's comfortable with the direction of our football team, and confident that we can continue to have success here, and try to find a way to get us kind of over that hump so we can reach further and further and further."

A return to the Packers would almost certainly require a contract restructuring or extension for Rodgers to reduce his cap number. But given that they are $44.8 million over their projected cap for the 2022 season, it might be difficult to retain key players, including Adams -- who is set to be a free agent.

That's no doubt why Rodgers said Saturday he doesn't want to be part of a rebuild at this stage of his career.

"There's no plan for a rebuild," LaFleur said. "You get this close, obviously win a lot of football games, and we know in order for there not to be that, he's gotta be a part of this thing. I don't think that's anybody's intention."

The Packers could use the franchise tag on Adams but given their salary-cap situation, that might not be a possibility.

"[Adams is] another guy that we're hopeful we can come to an agreement with," said LaFleur, who noted he's already met with the star wideout. "I told him that he's definitely earned the respect of not only his teammates but all of his coaches as well, and I think everybody in this organization."

As for Bakhtiari, LaFleur said there are no long-term concerns about the All-Pro left tackle's surgically repaired knee. Bakhtiari missed more than a year following a torn ACL before he returned to play 27 snaps in the regular-season finale, which at the time was viewed as a warmup for the postseason.

But Bakhtiari did not play in the loss to the 49ers.

"The opinions we've gotten from not only our docs but other docs as well is that structurally, everything looks good," LaFleur said. "But until we get there, until we work through this, I don't think anybody truly knows. Everybody responds to these injuries a little bit differently. Unfortunately, in his case, it just has taken longer than it typically does."

LaFleur also said Monday he has not made any decisions about changes on his coaching staff, including with special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton.

The Packers struggled on special teams all season, ranking 31st in ESPN's FPI, and became the first team in 33 years to have both a punt and field goal blocked in the same playoff game. However, LaFleur alluded to perhaps needing to use more veteran players on special teams -- a sign that he might not think the problem was coaching and scheme issues.

"We have not gotten involved with any part of that process, with any of our coaches, just trying to, we've got to look at everything, man," LaFleur said. "We've got to look at everything and if we feel like we can improve in certain areas then we'll make tough decisions. But we're not even close to, remotely close to getting into that at this point in time."

Rodgers did not speak to reporters on Monday, when players held their exit interviews, but that is not unusual. He is expected to make at least one more of his regular appearances on "The Pat McAfee Show" on Tuesday.

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