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Packers fortunate to get highly motivated Aaron Rodgers back for one more run

In crunch time, Green Bay Packers brass and quarterback Aaron Rodgers found a way.

After an offseason of uncertainty, fueled by the reigning NFL MVP’s dissatisfaction with his employers — philosophical differences, as he has described it — which led many to believe that he had played his last game in green and gold, Rodgers, team president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst have reached a compromise in the form of a restructured contract.

When the Packers veterans reported to team headquarters Tuesday morning, the day before their first practice, Rodgers ranked among them.

The restructuring of the contract will give the Packers more salary cap flexibility despite not causing Rodgers any financial losses. The agreement also voids the 2023 year in the contract. This could position Green Bay to trade Rodgers to the destination of his choice in the offseason of 2022.

Many around the league called the arrangement a “win-win.”

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Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers warms up before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Green Bay, Wis., in this Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, file photo.

Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers warms up before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Green Bay, Wis., in this Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, file photo.

Rodgers gained important concessions. The Packers, who after falling short in the NFC championship game in each of the last two seasons and have done everything to position themselves for another run at the Super Bowl, get one more year out of Rodgers. And they figure to receive handsome compensation for him next year.

Some league rivals have, however, asked what version of Rodgers the Packers can expect to see this season: the locked-in, MVP-caliber No. 12? Or a disengaged player more mindful of avoiding injury and preserving himself for his future team?

After all the hurt feelings and bad blood, can Rodgers really give his all for the Packers?

People familiar with Rodgers say absolutely. He’s too competitive to sand-bag it for a year and tarnish his legacy. He takes too much pride in his distinction as one of the greatest of all time to give a half-hearted effort.

And so, many league insiders predict that Rodgers will attack this season with a fury. Just as he did last season when he responded to Green Bay’s drafting of his replacement Jordan Love by producing a career year, Rodgers again will deliver a statement campaign and then look to move on.

That’s just how Rodgers works. Some outgoing players may find it hard to so fully devote themselves to the service of a franchise whose leaders they distrust. But Rodgers compartmentalizes masterfully.

Last week, Rodgers and top wide receiver Davante Adams simultaneously posted a picture of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on their Instagram accounts. Rodgers and his closest sidekick, it appears, were signaling that much like Jordan’s 1997-98 Bulls, who vowed to play for each other in that final season and not GM Jerry Krause, whom they so greatly despised, these Packers will band together with the goal of delivering a championship despite a lack of respect for some of their bosses.

In Rodgers’ eyes, the Packers are bigger than either high-ranking official.

“Green Bay has always been about the people,” Rodgers told outgoing “SportsCenter” host Kenny Mayne in his only extensive interview of this offseason. “From Curly Lambeau being owner and founder to the ’60s with (Vince) Lombardi and Bart Starr and all those incredible names to the ’90s teams with coach (Mike) Holmgren and (Brett) Favre-y and the Minister of Defense (Reggie White) to the run that we’ve been on. It’s about the people.”

So, it’s to his teammates, coaches, behind-the-scenes Packers employees, and fans that Rodgers will dedicate this season.

Giving those members of the Packers family one more Lombardi Trophy on his way out will fuel him.

Sure, he seemingly would like to pull a Tom Brady-to-Tampa Bay a year from now, leave Green Bay and stick it to Gutekunst and Murphy by winning a championship in his next stop. But he’s too disciplined to look past this season.

When he takes the field, he’ll do so in top shape, physically and mentally.

This year, he may be even more vocal and more adamantly offer coach Matt LaFleur and his assistants even more of his input. He may push teammates even harder. But Rodgers will not phone this season in.

So, with the biggest question mark of their offseason now resolved, it truly is Super Bowl or bust for the Packers.

The front office should count itself lucky that Rodgers didn’t insist on retiring and sitting out the season to force his way out of Green Bay.

The Packers and their fans should savor every touchdown pass, every two-minute drill and game-winning drive that Rodgers delivers this season.

Green Bay was always lucky that Rodgers fell all the way down to 24th overall in the 2005 NFL draft, and none in the franchise truthfully could have never imagined that this QB could have so adequately succeeded the legendary Favre in the last 13 seasons as a starter.

Now they’re lucky to have him back — and in full force — for one more year after facing bleak odds for much of this offseason.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Green Bay Packers lucky to have Aaron Rodgers back for another run

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