Aaron Rodgers confident ready for another 49ers shot
Aaron Rodgers will embark on his final quest for a second Super Bowl ring on Saturday as the Green Bay Packers open their playoff campaign against the San Francisco 49ers.
Rodgers and the Packers, who earned a bye as the NFC’s top seed, enter the playoffs full of confidence as they prepare to host the 49ers at Lambeau Field.
For Rodgers, who grew up as a 49ers fan in Northern California, it’s another opportunity to remind San Francisco what might have happened if the franchise hadn’t snubbed him in the 2005 draft. .
The 49ers opted for Alex Smith instead, while Rodgers ended up in Green Bay.
When asked at the time how disappointed he was not to be drafted by the 49ers, Rodgers responded with an answer that has gone down in NFL folklore.
“Not as disappointed as the 49ers didn’t draft me,” the quarterback said.
In the playoffs at least, Rodgers has failed to live up to that bold statement. Rodgers has finished on the losing side in all three of their previous meetings against the 49ers in the playoffs.
Saturday’s clash at Lambeau arguably offers Rodgers his best chance to end that losing streak in what is a record ninth playoff meeting between the two NFC rivals.
Rodgers insists the franchise rivalry doesn’t give him extra motivation.
“Motivation comes from within,” he said this week. “I already have enough motivation. Inspiration? I have seen this rivalry grow.
“I understand the story of this rivalry, the story of us versus them. But they are two different teams.
The 49ers, who beat Rodgers and Packers 37-20 in the NFC Championship Game two years ago to reach the Super Bowl, are happy in the underdog role as they get back on the road.
San Francisco sealed its playoff spot with a victory over the Los Angeles Rams in the final game of the regular season, before shutting down the Dallas Cowboys last weekend.
If last year’s offseason had gone differently, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan might well have groomed Rodgers as a playoff quarterback.
San Francisco inquired about Rodgers’ availability last year after the quarterback indicated he wanted to be traded – but was quickly rebuffed.
Shanahan, a friend of Packers coach Matt LaFleur, insists there’s no lingering bad blood about this approach. Shanahan and LaFleur exchanged a brief handshake earlier this season after the Packers secured a last-minute victory over the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Week 3.
“I was pissed off after that game because of the way that game ended,” Shanahan said.
“But we are good. I talk a lot with Matt. I was really happy for him. But that ends this week.
After an uncertain start to the season, the 49ers finished strong, going 8-2 in their last 10 games.
Whether the sixth-seeded 49ers pull off another upset will depend on the fitness of defensive stars Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. Both players limped off last week’s win over Dallas but are expected to recover on Saturday.
In the AFC, the top-seeded Tennessee Titans take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Saturday’s other division game.
The contest could mark the return of Titans running back Derrick Henry, who hasn’t played since fracturing his foot in an overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts in October.
Henry took part in padded training sessions on Tuesday and later said he “felt great”.
“I just wanted to put some pads on,” Henry said. “I haven’t had them for a while and I’ve had some contact.”
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