GREEN BAY, Wis. &
Aaron Rodgers gets a daily reminder he doesn't need: Less than 10 feet from where he dresses is Brett Favre's old locker, nameplate intact, and complete with shoulder pads still sitting on the shelf.
"I know the pressure I'm under. I know who I'm following. I know that it's a tough situation and a lot of people are expecting me to fail outside of this locker room," Rodgers said Wednesday in his first football-related comments since he was anointed as Favre's successor in March. "I'm just trying to get the guys we've got here now to believe in me."
Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers' second practice and third organized team activity earlier Wednesday. The 24-year-old whose mom thinks he needs a haircut played the part to perfection.
At one point, he whipped a tight pass to top receiver Donald Driver, who broke out his big grin after the grab. Driver says the transition from No. 4 to No. 12 is seamless.
"No. 4, he's not here, but his spirit is here," Driver said. "Nothing's changing, we're not going to do anything different than what we would do if Brett was here. The play calling is going to stay the same. The cadence is going to stay the same. There's nothing different, you just see a different face, but you all move on."
And the Packers have, even if the three-time MVP Favre continues to make the occasional off-the-cuff remark about playing again.
Rodgers said he hasn't talked to Favre in the offseason, though the two have traded messages, and he's not on Favre watch, even if some Cheeseheads still believe their hero might return triumphantly to Titletown after the Packers fell tantalizingly short of a Super Bowl appearance by losing in the NFC title game to the eventual champion New York Giants.
"I do hear about it second hand, but there's not much you can say about that," Rodgers said. "He obviously is retired, he probably still thinks he can play, but as a football team, I think we're moving on."
Rodgers also isn't taking Favre's mixed messages personally.
"He still has a passion for the game," he said. "I've talked to a lot of retired guys who still feel like they can play and I'm sure he does, too. But that's just not something I worry about."
The story line will be there, though, all season with every pass, every snap.
"I know the comparisons, probably my entire career, as long as I'm a Packer and as long as I play in the NFL ... my connection will be the guy who followed Brett Favre," he said.
The Packers have told Rodgers unequivocally he'll be the starter even with highly touted rookie Brian Brohm being selected in the second round and Matt Flynn being taken in the seventh.
While the two rookies are learning, Rodgers has been in the West Coast offense since he was picked in the first round in 2005.
"I think that's probably one of the most underestimated parts of my game is that I have spent the last three offseasons exclusively here and I've put in a lot of time and a lot of hard work into figuring out this offense," said Rodgers, who has 59 career attempts, 8,699 less than Favre. "I think I'll be ready to go once we can finally lace them up for real."
Wide receiver James Jones scoffs that there's someone new or untested in the huddle.
"New quarterback? A-Rod has been here for a long time, man. I'm excited about him, I'm happy for him, I'm happy he got his opportunity and I think he's going to do well," Jones said. "It's his show now, so we're going to let him go to work."
Still, the pressure is always there.
"I do feel sorry for him in some ways, but he knew that, he knew once Brett was gone he was going to get this opportunity and the spotlight was going to be on him," Jones said.
For his part as a leader, Rodgers has been holding weekly dinners at his house and inviting the entire team and their wives over. They've been a success, Rodgers said, with more than 30 guys coming over each time to talk about things other than football in an effort to build camaraderie.
"I think I've always been a guy who wants to be involved not only in working together but be involved in the lives of these guys," Rodgers said. "I want us to be a connected team &
on and off the field."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers keeps doing everything right, and hinted earlier this month that there were plans for Favre's locker in the future. Rodgers quickly dismissed that Favre's locker was a distraction, saying he didn't care.
Besides, Rodgers wants to focus on the future, not the past.
"It kind of hit me when somebody said, Aaron Rodgers, starting quarterback," he said. "That just has a good ring to it."
Packers QB Rodgers says he's ready for spotlight post-Favre
GREEN BAY, Wis. &