GIVE HIM SPACE
The QB told everyone to "R-E-L-A-X" after a 1--2 start. He knew what he was doing: The Packers have won their last four games, and Rodgers has thrown 13 TDs and 0 INTs during that span.
DP:Can you see yourself playing at 40?
AARON RODGERS: I'd love to. It's going to take a lot of work to keep up my fitness to play the way I want to play.
DP:You have Hans and Franz helping you work out in that State Farm ad.
AR: I'm all pumped up. That's why they have HGH testing now.
DP:You used the fake spike to beat the Dolphins in Week 6. When was the first time you saw the clip of Dan Marino doing the same thing?
AR: That day [in 1994] for sure. In our household, Saturday was college football, Sunday morning was church and Sunday afternoon was pro football. I was definitely watching the game either live or saw the highlights. It was purely a reaction play. I'm just glad Davante [Adams] looked inside and then got out-of-bounds.
DP:You seem pretty nonchalant about the whole thing.
AR: We've done that play before in practice. I just want everybody to R-E-L-A-X.
DP:I have an idea. Instead of shouting "Omaha!" at the line, why don't you yell, "Relax. Relax."
AR:[Laughs] I'll think about it.
DP:Do you use Omaha at the line?
AR: No. I'm looking for another steak company. I have to pick a brand that is up and coming that has two or three syllables. They mike up everything. They can hear just about every conversation at the line of scrimmage.
DP:Does that bother you?
AR: I hate it.
DP:They're trying to get fans close to the game.
AR: There's too much access. A couple of games ago I got bumped in the back of the head by a camera guy trying to get in a pregame huddle. I'm like, What are you doing? Nothing you're filming is going to be used for TV. You'd have to bleep out every single word.
DP:They seem very close during the national anthem.
AR: That's why I never stand right on the sideline. I have too much respect for this country. I remember the first time I started in college [for Cal]. The anthem was an absolute thrill. I was playing Illinois, where I wanted to go out of high school. My grandfather served in World War II. The military has always been part of our family. I think about those little things when I listen to the anthem. [The access] is too much. Everyone in the stadium is respecting the flag, and the camera has to get a shot of my nose hair.
DP:You're crushing Illinois fans.
AR: I went out to their team camp, and they didn't offer me a scholarship. I have no ill will toward Illinois.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy told me he tries to keep it old school with his decisions. "It's getting hard to go with gut instinct," Bochy said. "When baseball ops is sending down all this info, it can be an overload. You still have to go with feel. It may not work, but at least you can look back and say I did it my way." ... NFL officiating czar Dean Blandino clarified the rule on flagging players for offensive language. "There aren't any magic words," Blandino told me. "It's how those words are used. And whether it's done in an abusive manner toward an opponent. That's what will constitute a foul." ... Longtime Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said writing nice things about a player is not an easy way to forge a strong relationship: "Though [Larry Bird and I] were friends and I wrote a book with him ... I had no evidence that he ever read a word I had written."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
SIMON BRUTY/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (RODGERS)
CHUCK SOLOMON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (BOCHY)
JOHN RAOUX/AP (BLANDINO)
WINSLOW TOWNSON/AP (RYAN)