GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Before the Green Bay Packers really start cramming to get ready for the Super Bowl, Aaron Rodgers wanted to make a few things clear.
First, Rodgers says he didn’t sustain a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit from Chicago Bears lineman Julius Peppers in Sunday’s NFC championship game victory. He believes his new helmet may have helped prevent another head injury.
And while he’s speaking on the subject of injuries, Rodgers has heard people questioning the toughness of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler this week and thinks it’s “very inappropriate” and “disrespectful.”
“I was real disappointed, to be honest with you,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “I’ve known Jay for a few years now and know what kind of competitor he is. I thought it was disrespectful, some of the stuff said about him.”
Cutler was criticized by current and former players, fans and media members after leaving Sunday’s NFC championship game with a knee injury.
Rodgers is friends with Cutler — the former Vanderbilt player helped Rodgers’ younger brother, Jordan, get settled at the school when he decided to play there — and doesn’t believe the criticism was justified.
Rodgers applauded Bears coach Lovie Smith and players such as safety Chris Harris and linebacker Brian Urlacher for sticking up for their teammate.
“To attack a guy’s toughness, when you’re not playing in the game especially, I thought was very inappropriate,” Rodgers said.
Unlike Cutler, Rodgers generally has earned praise for his conduct on and off the field in three seasons as the Packers’ starter.
But even Rodgers’ positive public image took a recent hit when a local television station did a story about a female cancer patient who went to the airport hoping to get Rodgers’ autograph. The station showed footage of Rodgers walking past her.
Some fans and bloggers took that as a sign that Rodgers intentionally snubbed a fan with a serious illness, although the woman later said Rodgers had signed for her before.
“You realize when you get in this league, you can’t please everybody,” Rodgers said. “You can’t fulfill every request. You just be the person you are. And I think through the whole thing, with the airport incident, I just realized, you know what, I’m myself, and I was raised the right way.”
So while Cutler goes into the offseason perhaps needing to mend his image, Rodgers is waiting for his body to heal.
He was roughed up a little in Sunday’s victory over the Bears, taking a shot to the shoulder in addition to the hit from Peppers.
Rodgers shot down speculation that he sustained another concussion on the Peppers hit and credited his helmet for potentially preventing another significant head injury. Rodgers switched helmets after sustaining two concussions earlier this season, although he has been hesitant to share details about how the new helmet might be safer.
“Not too much to talk about,” Rodgers said. “I didn’t have a concussion. I want to dispel that rumor. No concussion. I was fine. Yeah. Helmets are designed to prevent concussions, I think.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week that Rodgers was sore, adding that all players have bumps and bruises at this point in the season.
Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said Rodgers’ toughness is unquestioned.
“Unfortunately, he’s been sacked a bunch since he started playing in ‘08 — more times that we’d like to admit,” Philbin said. “So I think his physical toughness has really never been in question. How this particular game compares to other games, I don’t really have a good feel for. But certainly he’s a tough, physical guy.”