Carolina Panthers

Players, fans warming up to different QB in Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers has done a pretty good job of helping fans in Green Bay forget about future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.
Aaron Rodgers has done a pretty good job of helping fans in Green Bay forget about future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.

CHARLOTTE -- They have to admit, it's strange watching tape of the Green Bay Packers and not seeing Brett Favre running around and running them.

But the Carolina Panthers are quick to add a warning to that bit of nostalgia.

"Yeah, it is weird not seeing (Favre), it's been so many years," Panthers defensive tackle Damione Lewis said. "But I tell you what, that No. 12 is playing ball now. I think he's real smart. He makes all the correct check-down throws, he's doing a good job of running that offense."

That No. 12 would be Aaron Rodgers, the younger, safer, drama-free alternative to Favre the Packers chose to go with this offseason. They drafted Rodgers in the first round in 2005 to groom him, and he threw just 59 passes the previous three seasons. The Packers thought it was going to be an easy transition when their legendary leader retired after 16 years in Green Bay. Then there was the protracted soap opera during camp when Favre threatened to return, hoping to force a trade to Minnesota, and was eventually shipped to New York.

It might have been enough to wreck some, but the stoic Rodgers has held up well, impressing those around him.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy referred to the seemingly endless Favre watch as "this specific situation," but said he was pleased with the way Rodgers handled the scrutiny that came with being the other guy.

"It's very important because the other thing is a lot of times it affects the way people perform in this business, there's no secret to that," McCarthy said. "I think it's a credit to himself and his character and his strength to move through this specific situation as well as he did. It was something that he can definitely learn from and draw from as he moves forward. This business is a tough business. There are a lot of things that go into preparing for a football game and the ability to perform week in and week out is your big challenge.

"So anytime that there are added distractions that may use up some of your time or thought process, that is something that you have to learn to manage and he did a very good job with that."

Like McCarthy, Rodgers downplayed what happened before, saying this season has been "very exciting,"

"It's been a long year starting way back in March," Rodgers said. "With the long offseason of hard work and getting to know the guys on the team on a more personal level, into the summertime when it got a little crazy, into definitely a season of ups and downs, and an injury early on (a shoulder sprain in September). It's been very exciting along the way.

"It's been a lot fun being the guy under center again full time. We haven't won as many games or played as well as we would like to at times, but we're still in it and we still have a chance in November and that's all you can ask for."

He admitted the whole transition was difficult, but he relied on his small circle of family and friends -- as well as teammates who rallied around him -- to push through.

"I realized that there are things you can control in life, most importantly your attitude, and the things you can't control," he said. "You shouldn't really worry too much about the things you can't control. You should stay focused on the things you can control and realize that every day when you wake up you have an opportunity to control the attitude you take with you.

"That's what I try to remember and keep on my mind trying to keep things in perspective that way."

That he's playing good football helps. Rodgers ranks 10th in the league in passer rating (90.5), but fourth on third-down rating (105.8). He's had six games without an interception, and six with a passer rating over 100.

"I think Aaron Rodgers is a fine, young quarterback doing an outstanding job," Panthers coach John Fox said. "I think he's put up good numbers. Their offense has put up good numbers. We expect a fine quarterback that we're facing."

The Packers have staked themselves to him, signing him to a six-year, $65 million contract extension on Oct. 31, which will keep him in Green Bay through the 2014 season. It's the kind of long-term stability they've had before, but this time, it's coming with less of the excitement.

That sounds like it's just fine with them.

"I think Aaron is going through a lot of the bumps of the road that a first-year quarterback goes through," McCarthy said. "I think he has played at a high level. For the most part, he has done a lot of positive things as far his performance in our offense. I have been very pleased with his decision-making. His ball accuracy has been good even battling through the injury. He's going through all those first-time challenges that any quarterback has to go through, whether it's playing on the road in a dome stadium or pushing through practice during the course of the week because of injury.

"These are all excellent experiences that he can draw from as we move forward."