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Aaron Rodgers wins fourth MVP award, says decision on his future coming soon

Aaron Rodgers, whose playoffs were cut short by a loss to San Francisco, was named the NFL's MVP for the fourth time in his career Thursday. (Jeffrey Phelps/AP)

LOS ANGELES — Aaron Rodgers was perhaps the NFL’s most visible and polarizing figure this season. Now the Green Bay Packers quarterback is, again, the league’s most valuable player.

Rodgers won his fourth career MVP award Thursday, putting him one behind Peyton Manning for the most ever. He said after receiving the award that his decision about whether to continue his NFL career, in Green Bay or elsewhere, will come soon.

“I have not made any decision yet. ... Like I said in the last press conference, I’ll make a decision in due time,” Rodgers said during a video conference call with reporters. “And not in a ton of time — give the team plenty of time to do what they’ve got to do. I think that time is coming. ... There will be a decision in the near future. I’m not going to keep a lot of people waiting.”

It was, once more, a consolation prize for Rodgers, with another Super Bowl about to be played without him. His Packers were eliminated in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs, ending a season that began with Rodgers at odds with team management and included him creating a national furor when he vigorously defended his unvaccinated status following a positive test for the coronavirus.

Now, as he contemplates his uncertain football future, Rodgers at least can savor his second straight MVP season. He was the headliner as the league’s award winners were announced and the newly elected class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame was unveiled on the “NFL Honors” show, three days before Sunday’s Super Bowl meeting between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.

“It just comes down to kind of weighing where I’m at mentally and understanding what the commitment is, and then kind of making a commitment and everybody moving forward,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers, 38, has not said whether he will play next season or, if he does, whether he will seek to be traded by the Packers. The team faces a salary cap crunch, and star wide receiver Davante Adams is eligible for unrestricted free agency. Rodgers has said he does not want to be part of a rebuilding project.

He said Thursday night that he had “great conversations” with the Packers before leaving town following the playoff defeat.

“I don’t fear retirement,” Rodgers said. “I don’t fear moving on. I’m very proud of what I’ve been accomplished and proud that I’ve accomplished it in Green Bay over the last 17 years and excited about the future, whatever that ends up being or looking like. I’m also still highly competitive and still have a bitter taste from the divisional [playoff] game.”

He clearly demonstrated this season that he still can play at an elite level. He threw for 4,115 yards and 37 touchdowns with only four interceptions while posting a league-leading passer rating of 111.9. Rodgers played with a fractured toe suffered during his insolation period following his positive test, nevertheless leading the Packers to the NFC’s top playoff seed.

But their season came to a stunning end with a 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field in a conference semifinal. Rodgers remains stuck on one career Super Bowl triumph. Last season, he won the MVP award but the Packers lost the NFC championship game at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rodgers’s four MVP awards put him one ahead of Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas. Only Manning, with his five, has more. Rodgers also was honored in the 2011 and 2014 seasons.

Rodgers joins Brown, Joe Montana, Favre and Manning among those who have won back-to-back MVP awards. Manning managed the feat twice during his career. Only Favre won three in a row.

Few players have had an MVP season as tumultuous as this one was for Rodgers. He reported to training camp after an offseason of high drama in which it was unclear whether he would return to the team. He and the Packers steadied themselves after a dreadful performance in a season-opening defeat to the New Orleans Saints in Jacksonville, Fla.

But Rodgers’s positive test created an uproar after he had said publicly last summer that he was “immunized.” Instead, it was revealed that Rodgers’s bid to be regarded as vaccinated under league protocols — based on a homeopathic medicine alternative, a person familiar with the matter suggested at the time — had been rejected.

“Should I come back, there’s things that need to get done, probably, to get the team where it needs to go,” Rodgers said Thursday. “But should I feel like [it’s] my time to move on and do something else, I’ll be extremely, eternally grateful for the Green Bay Packers organization, the fan base, all the incredible 17 years’ worth of memories and friendships and special, special moments that I’ve gotten to share with members of the organization, my teammates, people that work there and the fans as well. I’m just super thankful for every single moment.”

Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt was named the defensive player of the year. He tied Michael Strahan’s single-season league record with his 22.5 sacks.

The Tennessee Titans’ Mike Vrabel was named coach of the year. The Titans were the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed despite having only one player, safety Kevin Byard, selected to the original Pro Bowl team, before replacements were named for players who withdrew.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was honored as the comeback player of the year. The second-year pro was the NFL’s second-rated passer during the regular season, behind only Rodgers, after having his rookie year cut short by a knee injury. Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp was named the offensive player of the year. Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was named offensive rookie of the year, and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons was chosen as defensive rookie of the year.

Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth was named the Walter Payton NFL man of the year for accomplishments on and off the field.

The Hall of Fame class was relatively low-profile, by typical standards. The eight-member class: LeRoy Butler, Bryant Young, Sam Mills, Cliff Branch, Richard Seymour, Tony Boselli, Dick Vermeil and Art McNally.

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