The Green Bay Packers just made quarterback Aaron Rodgers the NFL’s highest-paid player with a four-year, $134 million megadeal that, combined with the two years remaining on his existing contract, means he’ll be paid approximately $176 million over the next six seasons.
That works out to about $29.3 million per season over those six years. It’s $1.83 million per regular season game, and about $917,000 per half.
Rodgers more than earned that $917,000 in the second half Sunday night at Lambeau Field, showing yet again just how ridiculously good and how indispensable to the Packers he is.
Taken from the field in a cart in the first half after injuring his left knee, Rodgers returned in the second half and re-entered the game. He clearly wasn’t himself. He rather obviously favored his knee and limped around. He wasn’t the improvisational magician that he usually is on plays outside the pocket. But he still was great, as he threw a trio of fourth-quarter touchdown passes as the Packers overcame a 20-0 deficit to beat the Chicago Bears, 24-23.
“It’s the Bear-Packer rivalry,” Rodgers told NBC in an on-field postgame interview. “It would have had to take something really catastrophic injury-wise to keep me off the field in the second half. So I went into the locker room, did all the tests. I was in our facility trying to get it loosened up. But I knew once I got back on the field and the adrenaline started going, I’d be able to hang in there.”
Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack, not Rodgers, was the best player on the field in the first half. Mack, the former NFL defensive player of the year, was traded from the Oakland Raiders to the Bears at the beginning of this month for a package including two first-round draft picks. He’d been holding out for a new deal and he signed a six-year, $141 million contract with the Bears that made him the league’s highest-paid defensive player. And he put on a first-half show Sunday night at Lambeau Field that made the Raiders’ decision to trade him look even worse than it appeared at the time.
Mack had a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and a touchdown on defense, all in the first half. Only three players have done all of that in an NFL game since 2000. Mack has done it twice, the first time with the Raiders in 2016. The only other players to have done it this century, according to the NFL, are Brian Urlacher for the Bears in 2001 and Charles Woodson for the Packers in 2009.
Mack was everywhere, it seemed, as the Bears knocked Rodgers from the game.
“I just felt something in it,” Rodgers said. “I was having a hard time putting weight on it. The doc and I had a conversation in there. We did the tests. I told him I was going back.”
Which is what he did. After the Packers managed a third-quarter field goal, Rodgers threw his final-quarter touchdown strikes to wide receivers Geronimo Allison, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. The go-ahead touchdown came with just more than two minutes remaining, as Cobb took a relatively short pass over the middle on a third-and-10 play and turned it into a 75-yard touchdown. Even more agonizing for the Bears, cornerback Kyle Fuller just had dropped what would have been an outcome-sealing interception.
“I told the guys at halftime, I said, ‘If you shut ‘em out, we’re gonna win,’ ” Rodgers said. “We gave up six. But I just had a feeling we could spark it and get things going, and we just put together a couple drives. I was disappointed with the field goal. I think guys started making plays. That’s what we said in the huddle: ‘We’ve got to make some plays.’ [Allison] had a great catch. And then Randall ran about 80 yards for a touchdown. It was pretty special.”
The game’s highest-paid player trumped its highest-paid defender. Rodgers demonstrated once more that having an otherworldly quarterback is more important than anything else. The Packers are 95-48 in regular season games he has started. They are 6-11-1 in games he has not started since the beginning of the 2008 season. They reached the playoffs for eight straight seasons before going 7-9 last season, when Rodgers missed nine games because of a broken collarbone.
He’s back, and he vowed late Sunday night that he’s staying. He said he plans to play in Green Bay’s Week 2 meeting with another NFC North foe, the Minnesota Vikings.
“I’m playing next week,” Rodgers said as a very full night came to a close.
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