Aaron Rodgers set to get back to work after offseason losses

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers has been very clear this offseason: If he had his way, he'd still be throwing passes to Jordy Nelson and he'd still have Alex Van Pelt as his quarterbacks coach.

Neither of those things will be happening this coming season, and while the Green Bay Packers quarterback remains integral to the team's success, this offseason has shown him that being a two-time NFL MVP doesn't mean you get what you want.

"I think it's pretty clear that players play and coaches coach and personnel people make their decisions," Rodgers said in an interview with a Milwaukee radio station late last week. "That's the way they want it."

Rodgers' comments came during an appearance on 102.9 FM The Hog's "Bob & Brian" as part of a radiothon fundraiser for the charity Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer. Rodgers has been extensively involved with the Milwaukee-based MACC Fund for nearly a decade.

The Packers cut Nelson on March 9 with one year remaining on the four-year, $39 million extension he signed in 2014. Nelson acknowledged in an interview on ESPN Wisconsin's Wilde & Tausch during the NFL meetings that he was "hurt" by the Packers' offer to take a major pay cut to just above the 10-year veteran's minimum and the team's "unwillingness to try to make it work."

"I think the number was part of it, but also the conversation I had in the meeting," Nelson said. "I met with [general manager] Brian [Gutekunst] and had a discussion because I had to get a feel for not just the pay cut but what their plans were going forward. After that meeting, there wasn't, I don't think, much desire there."

The Packers have a new power structure in place this year in which Gutekunst, head coach Mike McCarthy and director of football operations Russ Ball all report directly to team president/CEO Mark Murphy.

Nelson signed with the Oakland Raiders shortly after his release and drew interest from the Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints as well. During the NFL meetings, McCarthy said he believes Nelson can play "two or three more years," despite a dip in production last season (53 catches for 482 yards and six touchdowns) resulting at least partially from the 10 games Rodgers missed with a broken right collarbone.

"It's the tough part of the business; when you get close to guys and spend a lot of time with them and play with them a long time and [you're] not able to finish up with them," Rodgers said. "Jordy and I had a really good feel for each other and obviously made a lot of plays over the years."

Nelson and Rodgers have long been close both on and off the field, connecting on a franchise-record 65 touchdown passes while also car-pooling to the airport before road games. Nelson said breaking the news to Rodgers that he was leaving was one of the hardest parts of being cut.

"Not fun. I think both of us wanted to end our careers [together]," Nelson said in the ESPN Wisconsin interview. "He always gave me a hard time when I tore my ACL [in 2015] that I owed him an extra year because I missed one with him. So I told him after he broke his collarbone that he owed me an extra year now. But it's tough. All the calls are tough."

Nelson's release came about a month after Rodgers' appearance on ESPN Radio's Golic & Wingo in which he expressed his frustration that Van Pelt, Rodgers' closest confidante on the coaching staff, was not brought back as quarterbacks coach. Rodgers said in the interview that the decision not to retain Van Pelt was made "really without consulting me."

Van Pelt landed in Cincinnati, where he's now the Bengals' quarterbacks coach under Marvin Lewis.

In addition to losing Nelson, Rodgers lost another of his offensive targets last week when tight end Richard Rodgers, who was on the receiving end of a memorable 61-yard last-second Hail Mary touchdown at Detroit in 2015, signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Seeing Richard sign away, that's a bummer," Aaron Rodgers said. "Rich is a great player; [I] loved playing with him. Obviously he was a part of a couple of great moments in Packers history and moments in my career as well with the touchdown catch against Dallas in the playoffs in '14 and obviously the Hail Mary against Detroit. He was a big part of what we did and a really underrated part of our success, I think."

The offseason certainly hasn't been all disappointments for the quarterback, however. McCarthy brought back Joe Philbin, one of Rodgers' all-time favorite coaches, to reprise the offensive coordinator role he filled from 2007 through 2011, and the team also signed five-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham. Rodgers said he is looking forward to the start of the team's official offseason program, which kicks off on Monday.

"The offseason is a great time to recharge and travel and work out and kind of get your mind right. But, as always, when the season rolls around, I'll be ready to roll and excited about my 14th season," Rodgers said.

"Obviously there's an excitement this time of year when things start to pick up a little bit -- you've got the offseason, you've got the draft, so it's exciting for football fans as things start to take shape and you see the countdown of how many more weekends until we have football. That is exciting. And obviously in Green Bay it's a little quiet until the season picks up.

"I know everybody's excited. We'll be ready when the time comes."

Editor's note: Jason Wilde covers the Green Bay Packers for ESPN Wisconsin and is the co-host of Wilde & Tausch with former Packers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher.