In July 2021, Rodgers skipped mandatory minicamp but later attended training camp, addressing the rift in his first news conference. “I just expressed my desire to be more involved in conversations directly affecting my job,” he said, explaining his desire for more of a role in the team’s personnel decisions.
But the season was defined as much by Rodgers’s performance as the reasons for his absences. He tested positive for the coronavirus in November, months after he had told reporters that he was “immunized,” against the disease. Rodgers that month decried the league’s vaccination mandate and “woke culture” in two podcast interviews. The N.F.L. later fined him $14,650 for violating protocols for unvaccinated players, which included not wearing a mask during his weekly news conferences and attending a Halloween party.
Despite the conflicts, Rodgers again excelled in the 2021 season, throwing 37 touchdown passes to just four interceptions, leading the N.F.L. in passer rating and guiding the Packers to a 13-4 record during another M.V.P. campaign. The team lost in the divisional round of the playoffs, but that off-season Rodgers signed a three-year contract extension with a reported $150 million in guaranteed money.
In March 2022, the Packers traded Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Packers’ offense struggled. Green Bay missed the playoffs, losing its final game of the season to the Detroit Lions, a team Rodgers has beaten 18 times in his career.
After the game, Rodgers told a Lions player requesting his jersey that he “was going to keep this one,” implying that it might have personal significance. Throughout the off-season, Rodgers had been brutally honest about his relationship with the Packers, and gave vague and cryptic answers about his future in the N.F.L.
As reports of Rodgers’s interest in the Jets hit social media in the weeks leading up to the trade, Jets players openly vied for his services. Ahmad Gardner, the Jets cornerback known as Sauce, donned a Packers fan’s cheesehead hat after the team beat Green Bay last season. He burned the hat alongside other Jets teammates on a video meant to recruit Rodgers.
The Jets’ campaign for Rodgers came just two seasons after selecting Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick, but Wilson rarely looked the part. He was benched in November 2022, after the offense gained just 2 yards in the second half of a 10-3 defeat to the New England Patriots.