GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers says the passage of time has given him a better appreciation for the seasons he spent playing for Mike McCarthy.
McCarthy, now with the Dallas Cowboys, will return to Lambeau Field on Sunday to face the team he coached to a 125-77-2 record from 2006-18.
“It’s probably normal in any relationship you have,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “When you can take time off and have that separation, it’s natural to look back and have a greater sense of appreciation, gratitude, and gratitude for that moment.”
McCarthy coached Green Bay during the 2010 season when the Packers won their only Super Bowl title during Rodgers’ playing career, but the relationship between the quarterback and coach eventually soured. McCarthy was fired at the end of the 2018 season.
Four years later, McCarthy returns to Lambeau Field as coach of the Dallas Cowboys (6-2) as the Packers (3-6) are on their first five-game slippage since 2008.
If any grudges remain between McCarthy and Rodgers, they certainly aren’t letting it show. They spent this week exchanging compliments.
“When I think of him, I think of the one-on-one conversations we used to have, especially in youth,” McCarthy said. “And it always ended with a hug and, ‘I love you.’ “That’s what I think about our relationship. I think he’s made me a much better coach. You’re talking about a man who is one of the best professional athletes of his generation.
Rodgers also recalled those meetings during his weekly press conference. He said the two started meeting every Thursday after training around 2009 or 2010.
“It was always fun,” Rodgers said. “These could be 30 minutes or four hours. You would start arriving at story time. It just bonded us over the years, these conversations. I’ve always enjoyed that. »
McCarthy and Rodgers helped the Packers win a Super Bowl as the sixth and final NFC playoff seed in that 2010 season. Rodgers won MVP awards while playing for McCarthy in 2011 and 2014.
The Packers made eight straight playoff berths from 2009 to 2016 under McCarthy, but fell to 7-9 in 2017 and were 4-7-1 when he was fired.
In recent seasons, Rodgers’ displeasure was sometimes apparent, sometimes criticizing the offense or complaining that he was not consulted before the 2018 sacking of quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt.
McCarthy said many of the issues between them could stem from the generation gap. And the different ways they communicated. McCarthy turns 59 on Thursday, while Rodgers’ 39th birthday is December 2.
“I think personal relationships are private, and you have to remember that I was born in the 60s,” McCarthy said. “I express myself better in public.”
Rodgers isn’t exactly heading into this meeting with momentum.
The Packers are desperate for a win and Rodgers is still struggling with a right thumb injury that kept him out of practice Wednesday, which has happened in four of the last five weeks. Rodgers says he expects to practice Thursday.
Rodgers threw three interceptions to tie a career high in Green Bay’s 15-9 loss to Detroit on Sunday.
Maybe the match with McCarthy’s team will help him bounce back, even though they’ve seemingly ironed out any differences they might have had at one point. Rodgers said they’ve always stayed in touch, but have communicated a bit more over the past year.
“I think over time, the gratitude for that time as you look back on your career journey increases a bit,” Rodgers said. “I appreciate the little things a little more because really this game and life is about the journey. I will always be connected to him because of the connection we had and the years we spent together.
“Obviously my oldest coach, my oldest playmaker. I’m grateful for those years and grateful maybe a little more now as the years go by.
NOTES: The Packers claimed DB Johnathan Abram off waivers from the Las Vegas Raiders. Abram was the 27th overall pick in the 2019 draft. … The Packers placed OLB Rashan Gary on injured reserve and signed wide receiver Jeff Cotton to the practice squad. Packers coach Matt LaFleur previously indicated on Monday that Gary would miss the rest of the season. … The list of Packers who did not practice Wednesday included OT David Bakhtiari (knee), LB Krys Barnes (concussion), LB De’Vondre Campbell (knee), WR Romeo Doubs (ankle), CB Shemar Jean-Charles ( ankle) , OG/OT Elgton Jenkins (knee), CB Eric Stokes (ankle/knee) and WR Sammy Watkins (knee) as well as Rodgers.
AP professional football writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this report.
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