TAMPA, Fla. — While Aaron Rodgers has a deep appreciation for what Tom Brady has accomplished during an unparalleled NFL career, he doesn’t see himself following the seven-time Super Bowl champion’s lead of playing well into his 40s.
“I’ll be doing something else. I have a lot of other interests outside the game,” Rodgers said, looking ahead to only the fifth head-to-head matchup of teams led by the star quarterbacks, who also are friends off the field.
“Game’s been really really good to me. I feel I’ve given my all to the game,” the 38-year-old Rodgers added. “At some point, it’ll be time to do something else, and I strongly believe that’ll be before 45.”
Brady’s already won two Super Bowls in his 40s. Less than six weeks after retiring in February, he announced he was returning for a 23rd season to pursue “unfinished business” with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who host Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
The league’s all-time passing leader turned 45 during training camp. What impresses Rodgers most about Brady’s longevity is how well he continues to play.
“The consistency where you’re still playing at a high level and there’s not the drop-off. Every great player fears turning into a real below-average player on the way out. I don’t think anybody wants to really hang on,” said Rodgers, who's in his 18th season — all with the Packers.
“Maybe some guys just want to get another year, or they’re maybe on a team where they can do a lot less,” Rodgers added. “But when you’ve achieved at a high level for a long time, you try and stay there for as long as you can.”
The Packers quarterback has an admirer in Brady, too.
They’ve met four previous times as starters, with Rodgers’ lone victory coming in 2014, when Brady was with the New England Patriots.
“He’s an amazing player, has been for a long time. I love watching him play. He’s from California, too, so I feel like we’ve got a little bit of a connection,” Brady said. “He’s an older guy now. He’s been a great player in the same place for a long time.”
Tampa Bay is 2-0 against Green Bay since Brady joined the Bucs in 2020, including a 31-26 victory in the NFC championship game two seasons ago.
The Bucs will play without leading receiver Mike Evans, who’s serving a one-game suspension for his role in an on-field brawl at New Orleans last week. Brady could also be without two other primary targets — Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee) — who sat out against the Saints.
“Part of the job is to deal with different people being in. It’s part of the demolition derby that’s the game we play,” Brady said. “Guys are in and out. You’ve got to adjust.”
Packers rookie receiver Christian Watson went to Plant High School in Tampa and expects to have plenty of friends and relatives watching him Sunday. The second-round pick from North Dakota State has five catches for 43 yards through his first two games.
This won’t be his first time playing at Raymond James Stadium. Watson said he played a youth league game there.
“That was definitely exciting playing as a kid, looking up and wanting to play in the league one day, to be able to play in an NFL stadium, that was really cool,” Watson said.
Tampa Bay is off to a 2-0 start despite Brady not being at his best during victories at Dallas and New Orleans. He didn’t have to be, with the defense limiting the Cowboys to three points and not yielding a touchdown to the Saints until the fourth quarter of a 20-10 victory. The Bucs lead the NFL with 10 sacks and have forced six turnovers.
Rodgers has been sacked seven times this season, which doesn’t bode well heading into a game against an opponent with a relentless pass rush.
Although both teams have changed quite a bit in time since, the Bucs beat the Packers twice during the 2020 season — including the NFC championship game — and collected five sacks in each of those wins.
“They definitely like to pressure quite a bit and then they do a great job of getting the ball out,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “They’re one of the best in the business, always punching at the ball. The guys in the secondary have really good ball skills, so that creates another problem.”
Green Bay’s offensive line benefited last week from the return of tackle Elgton Jenkins, who was appearing in his first game since tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament last Nov. 21.
WEEK 3 CAPSULE, GREEN BAY (1-1) at TAMPA BAY (2-0)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EDT, FOX
BETTING LINE: Buccaneers by 1½, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Packers 1-1, Buccaneers 2-0.
SERIES RECORD: Packers lead 33-23-1.
LAST MEETING: Buccaneers beat Packers 31-26, NFC championship game, Jan. 24, 2021, at Green Bay.
LAST WEEK: Packers beat Bears 27-10; Buccaneers defeated Saints 20-10.
PACKERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (6), PASS (20), SCORING (23).
PACKERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (10), RUSH (27), PASS (4), SCORING (7).
BUCCANEERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (24), RUSH (13), PASS (23), SCORING (18).
BUCCANEERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (5), RUSH (T9), PASS (8), SCORING (1).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Packers minus 2; Buccaneers plus-4.
PACKERS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Aaron Jones: He’s coming off a huge performance in which he rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and caught three passes for 38 yards and another score. Jones struggled in the Packers’ two losses to Tampa Bay back in 2020. He rushed for 15 yards on 10 carries in the regular-season matchup and had a critical fumble in the NFC championship game while taking a hit that knocked him out for the rest of the day.
BUCCANEERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Tom Brady. He hasn’t needed to be at his best the past two weeks in beating Dallas and New Orleans on the road, mainly because the Bucs defense has been so dominant. Through two games, he’s thrown for 402 yards, two touchdowns and one interception after leading the NFL in completions, attempts, yards and TDs passing last season. The challenge this week is to get the Bucs offense rolling despite leading receiver Mike Evans serving a one-game suspension and the status of two other primary playmakers, Chris Godwin and Julio Jones, up in the air. Brady is 5-2 and has thrown for 15 TDs in seven career starts against Green Bay, including playoffs.
KEY MATCHUP: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Bucs defense, which has a league-leading 10 sacks and allowed just one touchdown in two games. Tampa Bay forced five turnovers against the Saints last week and lead the league in fewest points allowed (13) and are tied for second in opponent first downs per game (15) and opponent third-down conversion rate (25 percent).
KEY INJURIES: Packers OT David Bakhtiari hasn’t played yet this season and has appeared in only one game since tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31, 2020. Godwin (hamstring) and Jones (knee), as well as Bucs LT Donovan Smith (elbow) didn’t play against the Saints. Their status for this week is uncertain.
SERIES NOTES: The Packers have won three of the past four regular-season matchups between the one-time NFC Central rivals.
STATS AND STUFF: The Packers and Bucs have the NFC’s two best regular-season records since 2020. The Packers have a 27-8 regular-season record, while the Bucs are 26-9. ... This is only the fifth time that Brady and Rodgers have faced off as starting quarterbacks. Brady’s teams have won three of the four previous matchups, most notably Tampa Bay’s 31-26 NFC championship game victory at Green Bay during the Bucs’ 2020 Super Bowl-winning season. Rodgers’ lone victory over a Brady-led team was Green Bay’s 26-21 home triumph over New England in 2014. ... The Packers allowed just one third-down conversion and seven pass completions last week against the Bears. The seven pass completions were the fewest they’d allowed in a game since 2005. ... Rodgers threw two touchdown passes last week to increase his career total to 451, becoming the fifth NFL player to have at least 450. Brady leads the way with 626. ... The Packers have committed only five penalties, the lowest total of any NFL team. ... Green Bay’s Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon are the Packers’ first running-back tandem to each have 20-plus carries and 100-plus yards rushing in the first two games of a season since John Brockington and MacArthur Lane in 1973. ... Packers OLB Preston Smith had two sacks and a team-high seven tackles against the Bears. ... This game will represent a homecoming for Packers rookie WR Christian Watson, a second-round pick from North Dakota State who went to Plant High School in Tampa. ... Evans is serving a one-game suspension for his role in an on-field brawl during Tampa Bay’s win last week in New Orleans. The Bucs signed veteran Cole Beasley to the practice squad as potential help while the team is short-handed at wide receiver.
FANTASY TIP: Bucs RB Leonard Fournette. He’s fifth in the NFL in rushing with 192 yards, including 127 against the Cowboys. With Evans out, Brady figures to try to utilize him in the passing game more, too. ... The Packers allowed Chicago’s David Montgomery to rush for 122 yards on only 15 carries. Dalvin Cook ran for 90 against them a week earlier.