Aaron Rodgers return has Packers aiming higher than NFC North

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 28: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers after a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on August 28, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

The goal of a division title for Green Bay’s competitors felt in closer reach during the offseason, the rift between Packers leaders and Aaron Rodgers creating legitimate curiosity about whether the three-time league MVP would return to the only franchise he's ever played for.

Well, he's back in green and gold — never left, really — with a last-chance vibe surrounding his chase for a second Super Bowl ring after losing in each of the past two NFC championship games.

"I don’t want a farewell tour," the 37-year-old Rodgers said. "I don’t know what’s going to happen after the season, but I’m going to enjoy it with the right perspective, for sure."

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NFL teams are normally absorbed in developing their own players, hesitant to publicly comment on another club's issues for fear of what could be coming around their own corner.

There's no doubt, though, that Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota were paying attention while Rodgers skipped spring practices and spoke openly about his frustration with the approach of the front office.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer?

"I might’ve kept track," he said wryly.

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The drama surrounding Rodgers and his future likely hasn't disappeared, but the expected transition at quarterback to Jordan Love can wait for now.

The Packers are loaded for another run at a title after 13-3 records in their first two years with coach Matt LaFleur, still riding the enviable wave of having a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback in place since Brett Favre took over in 1992. Rodgers replaced him as the starter in 2008, and the Packers have won the NFC North seven of 13 times — plus the Super Bowl after the 2010 season.

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