"There's a lot of guys' futures that are uncertain, myself included. That's what's sad about it most."
"I'm going to have to take some time away for sure and clear my head and just kind of see what's going on with everything, but it's pretty tough right now. It's a grind to get to this point, and that makes the finality of it all kind of hit you like a ton of bricks."
-- Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reflected during his press conference following his team's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. The first quote made headlines and led many to speculate whether Rodgers, who is signed through 2023, was looking to part ways with Green Bay. (Associated Press)
"We're not idiots. Aaron Rodgers will be back, he's our leader."
-- Packers CEO Mark Murphy calmed the nerves of Packers fans, assuring them that Rodgers would be returning next season. (Mark Daniels, WNFL via Twitter)
"You know, I didn't really see a whole lot until maybe yesterday, and then I realized there were some things swirling around. I don't feel like I said anything that I hadn't said before. I said it the first time I talked to the media. It was more a realization, I think, that ultimately my future is not necessarily in my control. I think that was what just kind of hit me in the moment. I was thinking about Aaron Jones and Corey Linsley and other guys we have under contract, Big Dog [Marcedes Lewis], guys who I don't know what their future is going to be, myself included. Obviously after the season that I had and potentially winning MVP and we obviously made it to another good run, I don't think there's any reason why I wouldn't be back, but … look, I think there's not many absolutes, as you guys know, in this business. So to make an absolute statement about something that is not an absolute, I didn't do it and I guess that's why I went kinda nuts."
-- Rodgers clarified his comments during his spot on the Pat McAfee Show.
"Frankly, Pat, you know me, and A.J. [Hawk] knows. I don't give a s**t about [speculation on statements]. I mean I couldn't care any less about speculation off of that. I don't think people are used to hearing the truth from athletes, so when they hear the truth it's so surprising at times."
"I'm 15 minutes from crying in the locker room with some of my teammates, I come and sit down and do this interview, and they ask me questions I give real answers just like I do on this show. To me, a reality -- not a certainty or an absolute -- is that my future is not in my hands. Now that's really the case for all of us as players. Naturally, there's times where you let your mind go to 'Maybe I'm going to be a Packer for life,' or 'I'm going to be like a Tim Duncan or a Jeter or a Kobe and play with one team my entire career.' I think naturally you dream about that. I mean that's kind of like a dream scenario, and I've talked about that for much of my career. I think when they drafted Jordan [Love] it was more just the reality kicking in, going 'Hey, that's actually never the case.' There are no absolutes in this business, and I think it's a beautiful thing to sit with and to wrap your head around. And I did, and I got to a beautiful place about it. Doesn't mean that that's not still a reality. I think that's the only reality, is that there's no absolutes in this business. I just reiterated after the game."
-- After McAfee quipped about Rodgers' new clarification generating more speculation about the quarterback and his stance on the team, Rodgers took the time to explain the reality of professional football. (The Pat McAfee Show via YouTube)
"A lot of times people have said things about me -- it's been the same few people -- and that's been sort of the prevailing story or thing that's reflected on. … I didn't sign on to this show -- we've talked about this off air -- but there wasn't some agenda in this. It was like 'F***in talk to Pat and A.J. [Hawk] every week? Yeah, sounds pretty awesome.' But what it's allowed me to do is silence all the douchebags out there who were talking for me."
-- Rodgers on how his appearances on The Pat McAfee Show this season have changed the narrative surrounding his surly demeanor. (Pat McAfee via Twitter)
NOW THAT'S LEADERSHIP
"Hey, Mecole! Hey, hey, hey, look at me. Hey, look at me. Hey, we good. Be you. You're gonna make a play this game. You're gonna make a play this game. Let's go. Hey, be us. We've been here. Be us!"
-- Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes was mic'd up encouraging wide receiver Mecole Hardman after the receiver's muffed punt set up the Buffalo Bills' first touchdown of the AFC Championship Game. The very next drive, Mahomes connected with Hardman for a touchdown of his own. (Inside the NFL via Twitter)
'SORRY, I'M NEW HERE'
Buccaneers personnel: "Ceremony is down there."
Mike Evans: "It's a ceremony?"
ME: "Ceremony? I'm new to this, bruh."
-- Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans had no idea there was a ceremony to commemorate his first-ever NFC Championship. You learn something new every day. (The Checkdown via Twitter)
BRUCE WANTS AN ENCORE
"Hell no. I'm going for two. If the Glazers will have me back."
-- Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has no interest in walking into the sunset if he and his team win the Super Bowl. (Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times via Twitter)
THIS WEEK IN NOT GOING FOR IT
"Anytime it doesn't work out you always regret it, right? It was just the circumstances of having three shots and coming away with no yards, and not only needing the touchdown but the two-point."
-- Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur tepidly justifies his decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line down eight with two minutes to play. The Packers did not elect to kick an onside kick after cutting the lead to five; they wouldn't see the ball again that game. (NFL.com)
"If I had to do it over again, I'd probably go for one of them."
-- Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott understandably regrets the fact he elected to kick two field goals inside of the 10-yard line during the AFC Championship Game. Buffalo elected to kick field goals on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line at the end of the first half, then kicked one from the 8-yard line on fourth-and-3. (Marcel Louis-Jacques, ESPN via Twitter)
"That's coach's decision. We had three downs to get in there prior, and we didn't do our job. Like I said, lack of communication, lack of execution down there falls on my shoulders."
-- Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen fell on the sword for McDermott, noting that his offense failed to score in the three plays prior to kicking the field goal. The Bills went 2-for-5 in the red zone against the Chiefs. (NFL.com)
HONOLULU > HOUSTON
"I process it by going to Hawaii for a week, and I probably should have stayed there. ... We were enjoying Mai Tais by the pool, so that was a good way for me to cope with it and I might just head back there."
-- Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt may have needed an extra rum floater in his Mai Tai after reading the news coming out of Houston. (Rivers McCown, Football Outsiders via Twitter
COMBINES ARE FLEETING, BUT WEIRD SCOUTING COLLOQUIALISMS ARE FOREVER
"I don't even know what ['He can spin it'] means. It's the equivalent of a guy who looks good on the driving range. There's a lot of guys who can spin it. Not as many who can actually play quarterback."
-- One of retired quarterback Peyton Manning's pet peeves: he hates the expression "He can spin it" when evaluating quarterback passing. (Sam Farmer, L.A. Times via Twitter)
"It was bad the first game I played but after that, you take a few meds and suck it up."
"There was no way I was gonna miss a playoff game."
-- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley revealed that he had played the final three games of the season -- each of the three Bills playoff games -- -with a broken fibula. Beasley was able to catch 14 passes for 145 yards despite the injury. (NFL.com)
ONE OF LIFE'S GREATEST PLEASURES
"I'll miss holding a football and running into a human being as hard as I possibly can."
-- Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald announced his retirement this week and already misses making contact in pads. McDonald claimed he sometimes looks at walls and things around his farm and thinks "If only this were a defender and I could run through it." (Brooke Pryor, ESPN via Twitter)
SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY! ONE NIGHT ONLY!
"Nah. I don't got nothing to say to [Tom Brady]. I'll see his ass on Sunday in the Super Bowl."
-- Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark, clad in a fur coat draped over a championship T-shirt, sounds more like he's cutting promo for a prize fight than delivering pre-Super Bowl trash talk. (USA Today)
THIS WEEK IN SOCIAL MEDIA
WONDER WHERE THAT KID IS NOW?
February 2005: Patrick Mahomes II, 9, offered prediction in Tyler TX newspaper about Super Bowl XXXIX between the Patriots (QBed by Tom Brady) and the Eagles (coached by Andy Reid). Brady won his 2nd consecutive Super Bowl and 3rd overall. pic.twitter.com/RxyAaYfb7y
— Greg Giroux (@greggiroux) January 25, 2021
-- When Tom Brady and Andy Reid last faced off in a Super Bowl, little Patrick Mahomes was just a 9-year-old boy planting bulletin board material for a future rival.
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) January 25, 2021
-- Mahomes is reading some bulletin boards of his own. To be fair to ESPN, putting all the checked boxes on one side doesn't make for a compelling graphic.
PUT ON A HAPPY FACE
Za'Darius Smith said he's wearing a Za'Darius Smith mask because his real face isn't smiling so much right now after the defense just got done watching last year's NFC Championship loss.
"I put on my mask so I can have a smile... https://t.co/uzl9bMaRzH pic.twitter.com/EzABXIqr31
— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) January 22, 2021
-- Green Bay Packers defensive end Za'Darius Smith sure looks like he's having a fun time.