Describing himself as shocked and disappointed, Rodgers said Friday after the Packers’ first training camp practice that Braun “looked at me in the eye on multiple occasions and repeatedly denied the allegations” that the Milwaukee Brewers slugger was using performance-enhancing drugs.
Braun this week accepted a season-ending 65-game suspension after admitting to violating baseball’s rules against using PEDs.
Rodgers felt duped by his buddy and business associate, a sentiment being expressed by many others in Wisconsin. A Milwaukee restaurant is named for two of the state’s most well-known athletes, and Rodgers last year defended his friend on Twitter, going so far as to betting his multimillion-dollar salary that Braun was clean.
“It’s disappointing, not only for myself as a friend but for obviously Wisconsin sports fans, Brewer fans, Major League Baseball fans,” Rodgers said. “It doesn’t feel great being lied to like that, and I’m disappointed about the way it all went down.”
Rodgers and Braun have spoken since the slugger’s suspension. Asked if he considered themselves friends, Rodgers didn’t answer directly but said in part, “I trusted him, and that’s the thing that probably hurts the most.”
The future of their business relationship – they’re involved in a licensing agreement for the 8-twelve MVP Bar and Grill – was yet to be determined.
“People make mistakes. I definitely believe in forgiveness and moving forward,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, (Braun) has a tough task in front of him moving forward with his career, on and off the field.”
All the attention at the first practice was atypical even for Rodgers, a former Super Bowl and NFL MVP who leads one of most dangerous passing attacks in the league. He was smiling and laughing on the field Friday, running through drills like the rest of his teammates on an overcast, breezy morning.
In the locker room, however, the off-the-field questions didn’t stop at Braun.
Earlier this week, former Packers receiver Greg Jennings — now with the archrival Minnesota Vikings — criticized of his ex-quarterback. In an interview with the Star Tribune, Jennings questioned Rodgers’ leadership and implied the quarterback had become bigger than the team.
“Don’t get me wrong, ‘12’ is a great person,” Jennings was quoted as saying, referring to Rodgers. “But when you hear all positives, all positives, all positives all the time, it’s hard for you to sit down when one of your teammates says, ‘Man, come on, you’ve got to hold yourself accountable for this.’ It’s hard for someone to see that now because all they’ve heard is I’m doing it the right way, I’m perfect. In actuality, we all have flaws.”
Rodgers said he wasn’t spending time or energy on Jennings’ comments.
“To me, I’m concerned with the opinions of the guys in this locker room and the guys we have here,” Rodgers said. “It’s exciting to be able to be one of the leaders of this football team, and I’m very confident in my style.”
Not surprisingly, the current Packers had the quarterback’s back.
“It is what it is,” receiver Randall Cobb said about Jennings’ remarks. “Aaron is a great leader. He puts us in some great situations on and off the field. He makes it easier for us to have someone to look up to for support and leadership.”
Rodgers had one of the best offseasons of his nine-year career, according to coach Mike McCarthy.
“He’s in good shape. He’s ready to go. He really understands his role as far as the leader and one of the veteran leaders on our football team,” McCarthy said. “I think Aaron’s off to a great start coming off a very good offseason.”
As for practice itself, McCarthy liked what he saw. It’s just the first day, so he and the coaching staff plan to take a closer look at tape for a better evaluation.
The tempo has picked up a little from previous years, in part because music is being played on loudspeakers during what are being called “TV timeouts.” It’s designed to give players a breather and, in part, to mimic the routines during games. Rodgers’ favorite tune in the rotation? Darius Rucker’s version of Wagon Wheel.