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CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18:  Play is stoped as Nick Collins #36 of the Green Bay Packers is injured against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers have released safety Nick Collins for injury reason.

The Packers weren’t comfortable with Collins returning after his neck injury that occurred last season, and doubts have surrounded his ability to ever play the game again.

Collins’ agent confirmed that the Packers told Collins of his release by text messagethis morning.

He played in 102 games and had a key interception for a touchdown in the Packers’ Super Bowl win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011.

Collins’ agent and Mike McCarthy said if Collins’ was their son, they would not him let him play football again. According to ESPN, McCarthy said the following at the NFL Meetings held last month:

That’s probably one of the worst parts of your job (as a coach), walking out on the field, looking over a player—especially when it didn’t look very serious, and then you get out there…I don’t want to be put in that position again. And this is not about me. I’m just talking about, if that was my son, If Nick was my son, I would not let him play.

Collins faces the same decision that Terrence Murphy did after he was released by the Packers in 2007. According to the same article referenced above, Collins, a father of four, said this about his injury status:

“When your kids grow up and they get into sports, you want to be there for them, cheering them on. And I’d rather do that rather than being in a wheelchair. I don’t want to be like that. I want to be there for my kids, my family.”

With the news of releasing Collins, the safety position is now a big need for the Packers in the draft this weekend. Could they take Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame or find a guy in the later rounds? Other possible options are Montana’s Trumaine Johnson, Oklahoma State’s Markelle Martin, South Carolina’s Antonio Allen, or Boise State’s George Iloka.

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The Green Bay Packers are coming off a 15-1 season after which they fell short in the NFC Divisional Round, losing to the eventual World ChampionNew York Giants.

So what do the the Green Bay Packershave to do get back to the playoffs and another Super Bowl?

The Packers have 12 total draft picks, so they should have a good chance to reload and get back to the playoffs and beyond.

Green Bay’s needs include a pass-rushing linebacker, defensive lineman, cornerback, safety, quarterback, running back.

1st round: 

Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: Ryan Pickett isn’t getting any younger, and ever since Cullen Jenkins departed the defensive line has struggled in getting to the quarterback.

Worthy is 6’2″, 308 pounds, All-American, had 10 tackles for a loss and helped lead Michigan State to the No. 1 rushing defense in the Big Ten. He had 11.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for a loss over his career at MSU. Worthy is more likely to play end in a 3-4 than a nosetackle.

Nick Perry, OLB/DE, USC: Perry is 6’3″, and 271 pounds. He fits best as a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker. His strength is rushing the passer.

Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State: McClellin is this year’s Brooks Reed, a player who rode a hot combine and soared up draft boards.

Boise head coach Chris Petersen on McClellin, “You know Shea McClellin’s a trained assassin on the football field. That guy’s been such an unbelievable player for a long time for us and completely and totally underrated, I think maybe, in the public’s eye. I don’t think so much in our opponents’ eyes, certainly not on our coaching staff. And, I just think that’s coming to light right now.” (KBOI2.com)

McClellin is 6’3″ and 260 lbs—undersized to play defensive end. When he gets in the backfield, he finishes plays and runs down the quarterback and would be a great complement to Clay Matthews.

He is explosive with a great motor, plays with hand on the ground and can stand up and rush the passer. (National Football Post).

Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: With the Green Bay Packers releasing Collins this morning, this makes safety a bigger need.

Smith is 6’2″ and 213 pounds. He is athletic, smart, and has shown ability to step up in the run game as much as the pass game. He is also similar to Packers defenders, especially Charles Woodson, as they like to get up in the passer’s face a lot.

Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama: At 6’2″ and 272 pounds, Upshaw comes from a great defense and is best when paired up with another outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. (NFL.com)

After the first round, the Packers might look into taking these players:

Possible centers:

Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin: Jeff Saturday is 36 years old, and would be great to help bring Konz up into the NFL after playing with Peyton Manning for his whole career and now Aaron Rodgers.

Konz is 6’5″ and 314 pounds but has some durability issues, suffering a blood clot, a dislocated and sprained ankle in his college career. He was once a possible first-round draft pick but should be selected in the second round.

David Molk, C, Michigan:Remington award winner for best center last season. Is 6’1″ and 298, did 41 reps on bench press at the Combine. Good speed, and a strong player. Could put some weight on. Solid in pass protecton, but needs work when setting in for bullrushes. Can be late in blitzes and needs work with technique. (NFL.com).

Gino Gradkowski, C, Delaware: He can play guard and center, and can learn from Jeff Saturday, while playing guard too until Saturday retires or leaves.

Possible running backs:

Chris Rainey, RB/WR, Florida: He is dynamic and can play two positions. Also incredibly fast—ran a 4.45 40-yard dash.

Chris Polk, Washington

Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati

Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M

Defensive Lineman:

Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska: Crick is 6’4 and 294 pounds. While he did get injured last season, he used to be a first-round prospect, and benefited greatly playing alongside Ndamakong Suh his junior year.

At 6-feet-4 1/4, he might not be able to hold a lot more weight, and a lot of teams project him more as a 4-3 guy who can move inside on third down, but he has some natural 3-4 skills, and is getting to play as such. – Len Pasquarelli

Billy Winn, DE, Boise State: Chad Rueter says he is athletic and is a five technique prospect. 6’4, and 294 pounds.

Mike Martin, DT, Michigan: At 6’1″, 306 lbs, he ran a 4.88 40-yard dash. He is strong, and racked up 88 tackles, 17.5 for a loss, and six sacks in his career at Michigan.

A sleeper at cornerback might be,

Josh Norman, CB, Coastal CarolinaA confident, hard worker. I interviewed him on my radio show, the Fan interference (@USFinterference), today and he showed that he will do what it takes to be the best.

He plays with a chip on his shoulder and compared himself to Deion Sanders. At 6′ and 197 pounds, he led the Big South in pass break-ups along with 62 total tackles, two for a loss, two forced fumbles, and a blocked kick.

He also set a school record at Coastal Carolina and conference records with 35 pass break-ups. He could get bigger, stronger and a bit faster, along with improving his technique.

Quarterbacks:

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin or Kellen Moore, Boise State: Both need some development, but as seen from Rodgers and Matt Flynn, Mike McCarthy is a great quarterback developer.

Chad Reuter of NFL.com has the Packers taking these players in this order:

Shea McClellin, Billy Winn, Dequan Menzie, FS, Alabama, Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa, Kyle Wilbur, OLB, Wake Forest, Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee, David Molk, Patrick Witt, QB, Yale, Deangelo Tyson, DT, Georgia, Gino Gradkowski, Chris Owusu, WR, Stanford and Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State.

The NFL schedule has been released today and the NFL Draft is next week. There’s hardly a day that doesn’t involve some type of NFL news.

Here is the 2012 Green Bay Packers NFL schedule:

Week 1 vs. San Francisco, 3:15-a great offense vs. a great defense, but don’t count out the 49ers offense or Packers defense. Aaron Rodgers vs. Alex Smith, two first round picks that were selected in 2005. Clay Matthews vs. Patrick Willis. Great matchup in Week One.

Week 2 vs. Chicago Bears, Thursday, 7:20 NFL Network-two historics teams playing a rivalry game. Two offenses that should score a lot, Rodgers and Packers, and now Marshall reuniting with Jay Cutler.

Week 3 at Seattle, MNF at 7:30-Matt Flynn vs Aaron Rodgers. Seems like Seattle is a similar place for Green Bay quarterbacks, first Hasselbeck and now Flynn in Seattle.

Week 4 vs. New Orleans, 3:15-great quarterback matchup, Rodgers vs. Brees and rematch of great Week One game last week where Packers won 42-34.

Week 5 at Colts, noon-Rodgers vs. Luck

Week 6 at Houston, 7:20, SNF-should be a high scoring affair with two explosive offenses, and Clay Matthews plays against former college teammate Brian Cushing.

Week 7 at St. Louis, noon-interesting matchup, Rodgers vs. Bradford; can Bradford step out of a sophomore slump and injuries?

Week 8 vs. Jacksonville, noon-Rodgers vs. Gabbert; how will Gabbert fare in his second year in NFL?

Week 9 vs. Arizona, noon-wide receivers/cornerbacks match-ups catch my eye; Jennings, Nelson, Cobb vs. Patrick Peterson, and Larry Fitzgerald vs. Charles Woodson.

Week 10-BYE

Week 11 at Detroit, noon-Lions made the playoffs last year and will look to challenge for NFC North title. Packers won both meetings last year.

Week 12 at NY Giants, SNF, 7:20-Packers play at Meadowlands hoping to beat the Giants after they ousted them from playoffs last year.

Week 13 vs. Minnesota, noon-The Packers and Vikings play later in the season, always a tough game. Green Bay leads series 53-48-1.

Week 14 vs. Detroit, SNF, 7:20-Lions and Packers in primetime; should be an high scoring affair, remember the last game of last season, Green Bay winning 45-41 and a 1,000 yards of total offense combined.

Week 15 at Chicago, noon-could this match-up decide the NFC North title?

Week 16 vs. Tennessee, noon-former Packers quarterback Matt Hasselbeck plays his old team or will Jake Locker be the quarterback?

Week 17 at Minnesota, noon-finishing the season at the Vikings, an old rival, there is nothing better.

It’s a tough schedule, but with a good draft, re-signing Jermichael Finley and signing Jeff Saturday, the Packers should be back at the top in 2012.

Stunned.

Lambeau Field went silent after the New York Giants knocked  off the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the defending Super Bowl champions.

The Green Bay Packers best season in franchise history ended Sunday on their own turf. The Packers, and their star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, were exposed and beaten by the New York Giants, and their star quarterback, Eli Manning.

Manning played elite, Rodgers did not in this game.

Eli Manning was dominant from start to finish, passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns. It was the Giants second win in Green Bay in four years. Both wins in the playoffs.

Rodgers said after the loss, “We got beat by a team that played better tonight. We play to win championships. You win a championship and you’re kind of at the top of the mountain, and you forget kind of how bad this feeling is. We had a championship caliber regular season and didn’t play well today.”

Here are three reasons the Green Bay Packers exited the playoffs early:

1. Lack of defense

The Green Bay Packers allowed 420 yards of total offense. Eli Manning passed for 325 yards and three touchdowns.

The Packers couldn’t get any pressure on Manning and couldn’t force him to make mistakes. Manning’s only mistake was a interception by Morgan Burnett that the Packers offense failed to capitalize on when John Kuhn fumbled.

Brad Jones recorded their only sack on Manning. The Packers only hit Manning seven times.

The Packers lack of pass coverage hurt them. They allowed a hail mary before halftime that put New York up ten instead of three. The Packers secondary should have knocked the ball down.

The Packers only knocked the ball down five times in the game.

Green Bay’s defense kept making stops on first and second down, but couldn’t get stops on third down, allowing New York to convert eight third downs out of sixteen.

There has to be changes on the Packers defense to contend for a title next season.

2. Turnovers

The Green Bay Packers forced one turnover. They had forced 38 in the regular season.

They also had four turnovers on offense that were literally giant killers. The turnovers definitely swung the momentum.

Aaron Rodgers had not fumbled all season, and John Kuhn fumbled for the first time in his career. Ryan Grant fumbled when the Packers made a huge stop on defense that gave the Giants the ball back in the Packers red zone.

On all three of the Packers fumbles, it appeared they were gaining momentum to score.

Rodgers also threw his seventh interception of the season.

The Packers thrived on forcing turnovers, not making turnovers, and Sunday, it all changed that hurt them.

3. Lack of offense

The Green Bay Packers offense didn’t play like the Green Bay Packers offense. They literally dropped the ball.

The wide receivers dropped seven passes, Aaron Rodgers didn’t look himself, and turnovers killed their momentum.

Rodgers looked a little rusty, as if he hadn’t played a meaningful game in three weeks.

The running game never really got going. (Rodgers was the Packers leading rusher with seven carries for 66 yards).

Rodgers had a decent game passing, but threw several balls that were off the mark. Rodgers went 26 for 46 for 264 yards and two touchdowns and one interception.

Rodgers missed a wide open Greg Jennings in first quarter that would of put the Packers up 7-3, but instead Green Bay settled for a field goal.

Another key pass Rodgers missed was when Jermichael Finley was wide open. Rodgers missed Finley, as he was just a little too far out in front for him to make catch.

Donald Driver was the Packers most consistent receiver catching all three targets passed his way. Driver led the team in yards with 45 yards.

It will be a sobering offseason for the Green Bay Packers; one that will leave a bitter taste in the Packers players and coaches mouths and hungry again for next season.

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John Grieshop/Getty Images

Can you believe it is Week 5 already in the NFL?

Who thought teams like the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers would all have winning records at the quarter mark of the season?

The season has had many surprises: the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers being 1-3; the Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons and the Oakland Raiders at 2-2 and the St. Louis Rams at 0-4.

The Houston Texans and New York Giants are playing under the radar at 3-1.

The Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts are just plain bad.

Lastly, we have the usual teams on top. The Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers are just good.

Here are five underdogs that will win outright in Week 5.

Arizona Cardinals At Minnesota Vikings

Both these teams have been major disappointments. Minnesota is favored despite a worse record, perhaps because they are at home.

Arizona is the better team, though. The Cardinals actually have a passing game: Kevin Kolb has 1,049 yards; Donovan McNabb has 680.

The Cardinals have better receivers; Larry Fitzgerald leads them with 361 yards receiving. The Vikings best receiver, Michael Jenkins, has 144—less than half Fitzgerald’s total.

The Cardinals’ run game has been increasingly better.  That happens to be the only positive of the Vikings offense.

Beanie Wells, now the feature back in Arizona, went over 100 yards last week and is giving the Cardinals a balanced attack.

Philadelphia Eagles At Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills beat the New England Patriots, so why not Philadelphia? Philadelphia has the line by three, but I say the Bills can squeak this one out.

It’s at Buffalo, so that plays to the Bills’ advantage. The Eagles secondary has been struggling, too. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been thriving in the air game, except for an off game last week in their loss to Cincinnati.

Buffalo has a balanced attack as well, as Fred Jackson is running the ball well (369 yards for the season). Stevie Johnson has given Fitzpatrick a solid deep threat.

The Bills defense is also much improved, especially their pass rush.

Cincinnati Bengals At Jacksonville Jaguars

The battle of rookie quarterbacks. Cincinnati is 2-2; Jacksonville is 1-3 and favored.

Cincinnati is the better team, though. Dalton has had a better season and has more offensive weapons than Blaine Gabbert.

Dalton has 868 yards, where Gabbert has 367 on the season.

Both running games are about equal, but the Bengals can air it out more with the versatile A.J. Green, who has had a spectacular rookie season with 19 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns on the year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers At San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are favored to win this game at home. They have a hot hand, but Tampa Bay is the better team.

San Francisco has the better defense, but Tampa Bay has the better offense and so far this season, offenses have trumped defenses.

Josh Freeman had a great Monday night game against Indianapolis and has 969 passing yards on the season. The Buccaneers win because they have the better quarterback.

Both teams’ receiving games are up and down; both have solid running games.

Oakland Raiders At Houston Texans

This may be bold, but the Oakland Raiders might win this game despite being on the road and underdogs.

Houston will miss Andre Johnson, so we could see the running game really flourish in this game.

Oakland has the better run game now. Darren McFadden is having a breakout 2011 season with 468 yards and three touchdowns on the year.

Oakland’s passing game isn’t all that bad, especially with rookie speedster Denarius Moore having a breakout 2011 season.

I’d say it comes down to who can run the ball better. If Arian Foster can be effective, he and Matt Schaub may pull it out against the Raiders.

127297039_crop_650x440The Green Bay Packers have been great to start the 2011 season.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers are off to a 4-0 start and tied atop the NFC North division with the Detroit Lions. Here are the winners and losers for the Green Bay Packers at the season’s quarter mark:

The Packers have been great so far this season as it is has been hard not to be impressed with the undefeated start for the team.

However, there has been some hiccups for the team. Injuries, and perhaps the lack of offseason workouts, hurt the defense so they could get the right chemistry.

Winners: 

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFLthis season.

Rodgers has a league-leading 73.1 completion percentage, 1,325 passing yards, a 12-2 touchdown-interception ratio and a 124.6 passer rating. Not to mention he averages 331 passing yards a game.

On Sunday he set a new NFL record, becoming the first quarterback to throw for 400 yards, pass for four touchdowns and rush for two more.

That’s incredible.

Rodgers has the playmaking mentality in him, along with his leadership and clutch performance.

Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson isn’t playing like he is 34 years old.

Yesterday, Woodson had an interception for a touchdown, along with four tackles and a pass defense.

This season, Woodson has played with an energy that won him the Defensive Player of the Year two years ago.

Woodson already has three interceptions, one touchdown, four pass defenses and 14 tackles on the year.

Green Bay Packers Wide Receivers

The Green Bay Packers wide receivers are about as good and young as any team in the NFL this season.

Just about everyone has caught passes from Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers hit nine in his first two games, seven two weeks ago and eight last Sunday.

Greg Jennings has been Rodgers go-to receiver. Jennings has 25 receptions for 366 yards and three touchdowns.

Jordy Nelson has caught 15 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns.

James Jones has nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Donald Drivers has eight grabs for 71 yards and a touchdown.

The youngster Randall Cobb has seven grabs for 148 yards and a touchdown.

Perhaps Rodgers biggest target, Jermichael Finley has 18 catches for 234 yards and three touchdowns. All of his touchdowns came against Chicago.

Green Bay Packers Rush Defense: 

The Green Bay Packers rush defense has been the most solid while the offense isn’t on the field.

They gave up their first 100-yard rushing game last week to theDenver Broncos, allowing 119 yards. In the previous three weeks, they gave up 81, 71 and 13 rushing yards.

On the season, they are giving up 77 yards per game on the ground and averaging 3.7 yards per rush to opposing running backs.

The Packers defense has also recorded seven sacks on the season.

Losers: 

Green Bay Packers Secondary: 

It was a bummer losing Nick Collins for the season due to a neck injury.

The Green Bay Packers secondary has been relatively weak this season, outside of Charles Woodson and Morgan Burnett.

They gave up 265 yards and 384 total yards yesterday. The defense had given up 403.3 yards in the first three games. The Packers rank 28th in the league in yards allowed.

Last year, the Packers gave up 320 yards in six of their first eight games of the season, they only allowed that once in their final eight games. (Green Bay Press Gazette).

Perhaps they start to defend the pass better as the season goes on.

To be honest, the Green Bay Packers linebackers haven’t been that bad. They are getting pressure and blitzing the quarterback, and are attacking the run, but perhaps they should help the secondary stop the pass in the future more.

This linebackers have combined for 4.5 sacks.

Desmond Bishop leads the team in tackles with 36 total tackles.

Clay Matthews is off to a slow start with 14 tackles and just one sack. Matthews has been solid in the pass rush, teams are just blocking him.

The Packers linebackers will only continue to get better. It just takes time.

Green Bay Packers Linebackers: 

To be honest, the Green Bay Packers linebackers haven’t been that bad. They are getting pressure and blitzing the quarterback, and are attacking the run, but perhaps they should help the secondary stop the pass in the future more.

This linebackers have combined for 4.5 sacks.

Desmond Bishop leads the team in tackles with 36 total tackles.

Clay Matthews is off to a slow start with 14 tackles and just one sack. Matthews has been solid in the pass rush, teams are just blocking him.

The Packers linebackers will only continue to get better. It just takes time.

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 Aaron Rodgers has been elite this season.

Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Aaron Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to another victory and had another monster day Sunday.

Rodgers has continued to show that he is an elite quarterback with his decision-making, playmaking and the leadership he has shown the Packers.

Here are five reasons why Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL right now:

No. 1: His Accuracy

Aaron Rodgers is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the entire NFL. Rodgers has a 73.1 percent completion percentage through the first four games of the season.

That is the best in the entire NFL.

Rodgers doesn’t just throw to one or two guys. Sunday, Rodgers hit eight different receivers. He hit nine in each of the first two games and seven in Week 3.

No. 2: His Playmaking ability

Aaron Rodgers can make big plays out of nothing. A prime example is when the Green Bay Packers trailed Denver 3-0 late in the first quarter.

Rodgers nailed a 50-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson that shifted the momentum. The Packers did not look back.

Look at these stats: Rodgers became the first NFL player ever to surpass 400 passing yards (408 total) while throwing four passing touchdowns and rushing for two more.

Don’t count out these stats either: he completed 76 percent of his passes, had a 134.5 passer rating and averaged a whopping 10.7 passing yards per completion.

Rodgers also gets things done when the Packers need them most. Rodgers and the Packers were 9-of-13 on third down and 5-of-6 in the red zone. That is efficiency at its finest.

On the season, Rodgers has 1,325 passing yards, a 12-2 touchdown-interception ratio and a 124.6 passer rating. He averages 331 passing yards a game.

That is an elite quarterback and the reason why Green Bay is tied atop the NFC North with the Detroit Lions.

No. 3: His Rushing Ability

Aaron Rodgers isn’t just a passer. Rodgers can run the ball, too. He showed that yesterday, with his two rushing touchdowns and nine carries for 36 yards.

But it’s not just about touchdowns. Rodgers can get it done when no receivers are open. His scrambling ability and mobility are partly why the Packers are 4-0.

When Rodgers can move outside the pocket, and avoid defenders, he has more time to find and hit his receivers for big plays.

In the last two years, Rodgers has rushed for over 300 yards. This year he has 53 yards and two touchdowns.

Rodgers will certainly need that mobility when the Packers play the Detroit Lions.

No. 4: His Clutch Performance

There may not be a more clutch quarterback than Aaron Rodgers right now in the NFL.

Rodgers is 32-20 in his career as the Packers quarterback in the regular season and 4-1 in the playoffs.

Rodgers and Green Bay have won their past ten games.

This season, Rodgers has showed why he can be clutch.

Against New Orleans in the season opener, Rodgers propelled Green Bay off to an early start, and they never gave up the lead.

Against Carolina, Green Bay was down 13-7 at halftime. They outscored the Panthers 24-10 in the second half.

Against Chicago in Week 3, Green Bay never trailed, but the Bears nearly came back. Rodgers put the team on his back and helped run out the clock late in the game.

Then, this last week against Denver, Rodgers shifted the momentum when the Packers trailed 3-0 late in the first quarter with his 50-yard touchdown pass. The Packers didn’t look back, but then when Denver pulled to within 21-17 late in the second quarter, Rodgers led another touchdown drive. In the second half, he put the game out of reach.

No. 5: He is Scary Good

Aaron Rodgers possesses a confidence in his arm that is why the Green Bay Packers are 4-0. Rodgers is cool and calm when he steps into the huddle and under center.

Rodgers wants to win and is driven to compete at the highest level every game.

He zips passes into his receivers, avoids sacks, thrives under pressure and is an accurate passer.

His decision-making and leadership are what the Packers need. Rodgers is not outspoken. He shows up to work and gets the job done.

Rodgers certainly isn’t going anywhere and will be in green and gold for a long time.