By Rob Reischel, Packer Plus writer
Jan. 22, 2013 | (191) Comments
Green Bay - Their season had been done approximately 14 hours.
Aaron Rodgers, one of the leaders of the Green Bay Packers, sat alone at his locker, staring aimlessly around the room. Rodgers was asked if he'd talk about the season that just ended.
"Nope," Rodgers said.
Instead, Rodgers began eavesdropping on an interview linebacker Desmond Bishop was conducting.
After each question, Rodgers made a snide remark about the queries loud enough for anyone within earshot to hear.
"I can't believe they'd ask that," Rodgers said.
"Nice question," he said another time.
Finally, doing his best Drew Rosenhaus, Rodgers bellowed, "Next question."
Instead of preparing for the NFC Championship Game, Rodgers was now critiquing reporters.
It's this type of leadership that had some taking shots at the 2011 most valuable player this season.
Make no mistake about it: Rodgers is one of the NFL's elite players. He had the league's highest passer rating for a second straight season (108.0), was second in touchdown passes (39) and was as careful as ever with the ball, throwing just eight interceptions. Rodgers took 51 sacks during the regular season, more than any other NFL quarterback.
At just 29, though, Rodgers figures to be in his prime the next three or four years and should keep the Packers among the NFL's top teams.
But is there a disconnect between Rodgers and some of his teammates?
While no Packers players have publicly criticized Rodgers, the signs began in September, when Blake Baratz - the agent for Packers tight end Jermichael Finley - took to Twitter to rip Rodgers.
"ARod is a great QB he isn't a great leader," Baratz tweeted. "There's a major difference. Leaders take the blame & make every1 better. He doesn't."
In October, CBS' Shannon Sharpe ripped Rodgers on the air. The Packers organization believed that the leak came from one of its own players.
"Aaron Rodgers . . . he strikes me as a guy that, it's always someone else's fault other than his own," Sharpe said. "I'm not so sure, I'm not so sure, that deep down inside, how well his receiving corps really likes Aaron Rodgers.
"I tell you what else, just because you're a great quarterback and an MVP quarterback that doesn't make you a great person. There is a difference between the two."
Rodgers later called those comments "stupid" and "uninformed" on his weekly radio show.
Then in December, Greg Jennings' sister Valyncia took to Twitter and tore into Rodgers during the regular-season finale against Minnesota.
Among Valyncia's stream of tweets was this zinger:
"ARod is the most overrated QB in the league! He is no where near Peyton or Brady! It sickens me, Peyton would avg. 5 TD with this squad!!!"
In addition, Rodgers probably didn't win any points from coach Mike McCarthy when he openly campaigned for Evan Dietrich-Smith to be his center and for Randall Cobb to stop playing special teams.
Rodgers also ripped the scout-team defense in early October after the Packers offense started the season slowly.
"For whatever reason, the rookies have not picked up what the practice tempo looks like or the importance of the scout-team looks as well as maybe it's been in the past," Rodgers said on his radio show at the time.
"There needs to be a level of professionalism that is current through the entire team from the veterans to the rookies that they kind of understand how each part of the day adds to the preparation."
Three Packers defensive coaches later took issue with Rodgers' opinion. And one national talk show host called Rodgers' comments "a lame excuse."
A little more than a decade ago, Brett Favre was in the process of becoming larger than the Packers organization.
Green Bay must now do all it can to ensure that never happens with Rodgers.
One reason Rodgers may have slipped to the 24th-overall selection in the 2005 draft is he was perceived as a know-it-all by many scouts and executives. Rodgers did not display that early in his Packers career, trying to prove that he was the anti-Favre.
Rodgers, who took a class on leadership in college, used many of those lessons early on to win points in the locker room. And even as his leadership was questioned this season, he talked about wanting to be a role model on and off the field.
"As much as I wanted to be remembered as a great player and win more championships here, which I think we can do," Rodgers said on his radio show last week. "I'm going to be as aware of the kind of person I am remembered as I move forward.
"Hopefully, I can take after my Packer role model, Bart Starr, who's remembered and thought of as much for his character as the way he played on the field."
While the Packers have one of the league's top starting quarterbacks, their backup position remains cloudy.
Graham Harrell was the No. 2 for all 18 games and threw just four passes. Harrell failed to wow anyone last summer, and he will be challenged in training camp by strong-armed rookie B.J. Coleman and whomever Green Bay might add to the roster.
"The longer you're in an offense, the better you know it and the more comfortable you get and the better player you'll be," Harrell said. "This year was great for me and huge for me, so hopefully, I'll get to have another great year next year."
This article appears in Packer Plus magazine, a weekly print publication separate from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.