Aaron Rodgers: The Voice of Wisconsin

Packers QB appears on a regional cover of this week’s SI

33COVRodgersWith fantasy football drafts around the corner, this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED previews the top fantasy football players at each position and also profiles some of the NFL’s star players, including SI’s No. 1-rated fantasy quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Senior writer Michael Rosenberg says that Rodgers, who appears on a regional SI cover of SI, has become the voice of Wisconsin because of his ability to combine stellar play on the field with genuine likeability off it.

Rodgers grew up in California and wasn’t initially happy when he was chosen by Green Bay with the 24th pick in the 2005 draft since he expected to be drafted higher and Brett Favre was still the starter (and a legend) in Green Bay. And yet Rodgers now says, “I’m a Wisconsin guy. I’m here nine months out of the year. This is home for me.” He adds, “People enjoy being able to see you at the Piggly Wiggly and say hello.” (PAGE 42)

It was just last year when Rodgers called PED allegations against his friend Ryan Braun “garbage” and even told a Twitter follower that he would bet his salary on his friend’s innocence. However when Braun, who co-owns the 8-12 MVP Bar & Grill with Rodgers in Brookfield, Wis., was busted for PEDs again a few weeks ago, Rodgers publicly expressed his disappointment on behalf of all Wisconsin fans and said it was O.K. to believe he was innocent at first. “Braun made Wisconsinites look foolish for their most admirable trait,” writes Rosenberg. “Rodgers legitimized their feelings: It was O.K. to believe Braun last time; it’s O.K. to be angry now.” (PAGE 44)

And thanks to Rodgers, who agreed last February to appear on stage with Favre at the NFL Honors award ceremony, the Packers and their fans can welcome Favre back when the Packers eventually retire his number in the near future. The organization and its fans turned on Favre after the unretirement saga in 2008 and his subsequent decision to join the rival Vikings. While Rodgers had his problems with Favre in the past, he would not let himself see a retired Favre as competition. “I thought about it for a day,” Rodgers says. “I didn’t contact the Packers or run it by anybody. I felt like it was the right thing to do. It was a good opportunity to start the healing process—him and I, the Packers and him, the fans and him.” (PAGE 45)

While Rodgers has already won a Super Bowl and his 104.0 career passer rating is by far the highest in NFL history, Rodgers cares more about how he is viewed by teammates when it comes to his legacy. “My legacy in this locker room is [more important]—how guys are going to remember me.” (PAGE 44) That’s why it was no surprise when Green Bay wide receiver James Jones spoke up in defense of Rodgers when former teammate Greg Jennings, who signed with the Vikings this off-season, took a shot at Rodgers’s ego in a recent interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune. True to form, Rodgers refused to fire back and turn Jennings’s comments into a two-man feud.


Peter King’s Final Eight Forecast

Peter King picks GBAfter a wildly entertaining—and often mind-boggling—18 weeks of football, Peter King is sticking with the Super Bowl pick he made at the start of it all: the Green Bay Packers. Here are the rest of King’s picks from this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED:

Final Eight (Divisional Round) 

AFC: No. 1 Denver Bronocs defeat No. 4 Baltimore Ravens 

AFC: No. 2 New England Patriots defeat No. 3 Houston Texans 

NFC: No. 5 Seattle Seahawks defeat No. 1 Atlanta Falcons 

NFC: No. 3 Green Bay Packers defeat No. 2 San Francisco 49ers 

Final Four (Championship Round) 

AFC: No. 1 Denver Bronocs defeat No. 2 New England Patriots 

NFC: No. 3 Green Bay Packers defeat No. 5 Seattle Seahawks 

Super Bowl

Green Bay Packers defeat Denver Bronocs

Here are Peter King’s picks for the Best of 2012 in the NFL:

MVP: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota

Offensive player: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota

Defensive player: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston

Offensive rookie: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle

Defensive rookie: Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle

Coach (tie): Bruce Arians, Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis

Comeback player (tie): Peyton Manning, QB, Denver; Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota

Executive: John Schneider, GM, Seattle.


This Photo Tells a Story

This Photo Tells a Story(But Not the One You Think)

It’s a perfect storm of a pinup: A last-gasp play seemingly interpreted in opposite ways by two replacement refs—patsies, really—working from a complex rule book. But the photo of the last play in the Monday Night Football game on Sept. 24 will force you to rethink the Packers-Seahawks finish, says Ben Reiter. “You never really know the life that a photograph is going to take on,” says Otto Greule, who took the photo. “That particular frame, to me it’s definitely a moment, an important moment. As far as the aesthetics, it’s kind of pedestrian. But I do like the context, showing the end zone, all the fans going ballistic page 62).”

While Greule’s photo is a fine one—clear, well-framed, exquisitely timed—it would not have been a sensation solely on its artistic merits. Context was everything. Analyzing the photo that precipitated the end of the NFL referee lockout, Ben Reiter digs into the story behind the now-iconic image, talking to the referees about why they made their decisions and how their lives have been changed by the controversy. Says Wayne Elliott, the referee who upheld the touchdown call: “It was the absolute biggest thrill of my life. I was making $225 a game in D-II football, without a travel allowance. I loved that. I would have done it forever. But if I had to sacrifice that to work seven weeks in the NFL? Man, it was amazing (page 66).”


Upon Further Review, it’s Clear That the Replacement Refs are Inferior

They’re Really That Bad

The replacement officials, collectively, are the headache that won’t go away. Thanks to a labor standoff, the NFL has been using replacement refs who so far have shown themselves to be alarmingly mistake-prone, star-struck and shaky on the rule book. It’s easy to pick on the scabs and any casual viewer can snicker at the comedy of errors. But are these guys really that bad (page 48)?

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NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: PETER KING PREDICTS SAINTS OVER PATRIOTS 34–24 IN SUPER BOWL XLVI

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The four quarterbacks on the regional covers of Sports Illustrated’s NFL Playoff Preview—Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New England’s Tom Brady, New Orleans’s Drew Brees and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger—have combined to win seven of the past 10 Super Bowls, including four Super Bowl MVP awards. Senior NFL writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) predicts that Brady and Brees will square off in a duel of record-breaking quarterbacks in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, with the Saints beating the Patriots 34–24. King’s complete predictions are listed below:

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