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Aaron Rodgers is the NFL’s MVP for a third time

Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's MVP again. (Mike Roemer/AP)
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TAMPA — Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will be notably absent from Sunday’s Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. The quarterback’s consolation prize came Saturday night, on the eve of the game, when he was named the NFL’s MVP for a third time.

Rodgers seemed on his way to making his second Super Bowl appearance when the Packers entered the playoffs as the NFC’s top seed, and he played an NFC championship game at Lambeau Field for the first time in his career. But the Packers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, prompting Rodgers to wonder aloud about what he called an uncertain future with Green Bay. He and his team ended a second straight season one win shy of the Super Bowl.

Packers officials, from Coach Matt LaFleur to President Mark Murphy, have issued public assurances that Rodgers will be back for another season with Green Bay, and Rodgers later distanced himself from his postgame comments by saying he saw no reason that he wouldn’t return. Now his list of personal accomplishments has grown as he adds to the MVP awards, determined via balloting of media members conducted by the Associated Press, that he won in the 2011 and 2014 seasons.

“It’s really special,” Rodgers said in videotaped comments. “To have won it in my fourth year as a starter was very special. And now to win in my 13th year as a starter in a new offense is pretty amazing. It’s something I’m very proud of. To have sustained success and to be able to play your best football at 37 in my 16th season is something I take a lot of pride in.”

Rodgers threw for 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns as the Packers went 13-3 during the regular season. He threw only five interceptions, and his passer rating of 121.5 was the league’s best. All of that came after the Packers used a first-round pick in last year’s draft on a potential successor — eventually — to Rodgers, Jordan Love.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to still be here and still be the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers,” Rodgers said. “The success that we had this year made the season a lot of fun at a time when there was a lot of turmoil and protocols around the coronavirus.”

The party’s still on for Tampa’s happy, home-team Super Bowl. It’s just not quite as rowdy.

Tennessee Titans tailback Derrick Henry was named the offensive player of the year. He had the eighth 2,000-yard rushing season in league history. Henry’s 2,027 yards were the fifth most ever.

“Two thousand yards, I think, is always on a running back’s mind, especially in the league just because it’s so unique,” Henry said.

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was named the defensive player of the year for the third time in four seasons. He finished tied for second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks and reclaimed the award that went to New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore last season.

“It shows the body of work that I’ve put in,” Donald said. “Anytime your hard work is rewarded, you’re going to be happy about that. So it’s just a blessing.”

Donald was the choice ahead of Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, who led the league in sacks with 15 and was trying to give his family a fourth defensive player of the year award. His brother J.J. of the Houston Texans was honored three times in four seasons between 2012 and 2015.

The Cleveland Browns’ Kevin Stefanski was named coach of the year. He led the Browns to an 11-5 record and their first playoff appearance in 18 years during his rookie season as an NFL head coach. He even won a playoff game from his basement — the Browns prevailed at Pittsburgh in the AFC’s opening round with Stefanski in isolation after a positive test for the coronavirus — but the award is for regular season accomplishments.

“It was a can-do attitude,” Stefanski said. “We tried to find a way every day, find a way every week under some unique circumstances. … I think we got comfortable being uncomfortable because that’s what 2020 was all about.”

Brewer: This odd Super Bowl will bring us together for a day. Let’s not take that for granted.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was named the offensive rookie of the year. Herbert was the third quarterback chosen in last year’s draft, going sixth to the Chargers after Joe Burrow went first to the Cincinnati Bengals and Tua Tagovailoa was taken fifth by the Miami Dolphins. But Herbert managed to stay healthy, unlike Burrow, and was more productive than Tagovailoa, throwing for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns.

“I think it’s a testament to all the hard work that we’ve put in as a team — the coaching staff, the players,” Herbert said. “It’s been a tough year. But we put in a lot of good work, and just to be in the conversation is an honor.”

Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young was named the defensive rookie of the year. He had 7.5 sacks after being selected No. 2 in the draft. Washington quarterback Alex Smith was the comeback player of the year. He resumed his NFL career after a career-jeopardizing 2018 leg injury that had life-threatening complications, providing veteran stability and unmatched leadership while helping Washington to a 5-1 record in his six regular season starts on the way to the NFC East title.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was named the Walter Payton NFL man of the year, an honor that recognizes community service and on-field excellence.