Rodgers Proves His Toughness

QB Aaron Rodgers (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Quietly, Aaron Rodgers has emerged out of the shadows of Brett Favre's legendary ironman streak to become one of the most durable quarterback in the NFL. Matt Tevsh has the story

There was a time early in Aaron Rodgers' career, even before he got a chance to be the starter, that many were quick to label him as injury-prone.

That the broken foot he suffered in the second season of his NFL career, as a backup, was a sign of things to come.

That his quick-to-scramble style would put him at risk.

That he would never hold up over a 16-game season.

Years later, that talk is all but dead. As Rodgers prepares for his third full season as the Packers' starter, he has silenced most of his critics by becoming one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league.

With 32 regular-season starts in the past two years, Rodgers is one of only nine quarterbacks in the league to start every game. And while he is far behind others – Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning to name a few – on the consecutive-starts list for active quarterbacks, there is reason to believe he can continue his streak for years to come.

Consider that Rodgers probably went through one of the toughest seasons physically of any quarterback in the league and the point only becomes clearer. Rodgers was sacked a league-high 50 times, and shockingly, that only tells half the story. He also was put to the turf on numerous other occasions, the worst coming on a helmet-to-helmet hit from the Steelers' Lawrence Timmons on Dec. 20 that left him with a swollen chin. Yet through it all, Rodgers never publicly complained or appeared any worse for the wear come game day.

While Rodgers' mettle was tested on a weekly basis last season, his biggest test came just four games into his first season as a starter (2008). With Favre and his legendary games-played streak still in the rearview mirror, Rodgers answered the call to head coach Mike McCarthy's mantra of "being available." After suffering a painful sprain to his right shoulder at Tampa Bay, which prohibited him from finishing the game, he returned the following week to put together a strong performance against the Falcons, albeit in a loss. It began a streak of three straight games with a 100-plus quarterback rating, his best stretch of the season.

Near the end of the 2008 season, after being guarded about his injury, he set the record straight by saying, "From a physical toughness standpoint, I've always taken pride in being able to play through injuries. This year, I dealt with some minor injuries and then my shoulder, which was a little bit more of a significant injury. But that's just kind of the way I operate, and I think most guys in the league operate. We all play with pain."

Rodgers' strong first season as a starter set the stage for 2009, when he added wins to go along with statistics. Along the way, he made every start making him the only Packers quarterback other than Favre to start every game in back-to-back seasons since the Bart Starr era. Starr twice went two full seasons starting every game (1961-62, 1964-65) and before that, accounts indicate that Tobin Rote was the only other Packers quarterback to do the same.

With training camp set to begin later this month, Rodgers will again choose to keep his conditioning up during a downtime on the NFL schedule. He said after the final minicamp practice last week in Green Bay that he will return to San Diego (where he makes his offseason residence) and continue to work out there with other NFL players, as he has done in the past.

"I'll just try to pick up where I left off here," said Rodgers. "My off time is really in February as I get my body healthy after the season. At this point, I just want to maintain and keep the base that I've started."

That plan has worked well in the past. And just as Packer Report's Bill Huber wrote Tuesday about how Rodgers has become the face of the franchise, he has exhibited a degree of toughness that was hidden during his years as a backup to Favre.

Now, not even lingering doubters can dispute that.


Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave publisher Bill Huber a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.


Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com

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