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Sights set on repeat

Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy are quick to find new motivation

By Gary D'Amato
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


DALLAS » With the Lombardi Trophy sitting on a table beside them yesterday, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers sent a rousing message to an emotionally sated Packers Nation:

We're just getting warmed up.

Barely 11 hours after their 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, the coach and quarterback of the Green Bay Packers made it clear they won't be satisfied with a one-trophy legacy.

The Packers are positioned for a multiyear playoff run with one of the deepest rosters in the NFL, the prospect of several key players returning from injury and a 27-year-old quarterback who is never at a loss for motivation and whose best football, McCarthy said, was ahead of him.

The feeling throughout the organization is that one Super Bowl title is great, but it's not enough.

"I feel like we are kind of reloading," Rodgers said. "We are going to have the best tight end in the NFL (Jermichael Finley) back into the mix here. I think we are getting 15 guys back from (injured reserve).

"It will be a different team. Every team has a different face to it. Every year different players come and go. But I think the core, the nucleus of this team, is intact to make runs like this for the next four or five years."

In his third year as the starter, Rodgers led the Packers to road playoff victories over Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago and won most valuable player honors in the Super Bowl by completing 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns against perhaps the league's best defense.

Yesterday, Rodgers talked about how his motivation had always come from feeling overlooked and unappreciated. Now that he's a Super Bowl MVP and NFL champion, he'll never again be considered an underdog.

"I guess I ran out of motivation, huh?" he said. "You know what? I'm always looking for challenges. I think the challenge now goes to repeating, scrutinizing this season, finding ways to get better."

McCarthy pushed all the right buttons in a season that easily could have gone the other way. The Packers were reeling after an ugly 7-3 loss at Detroit on Dec. 12 and Rodgers missed the next game, a loss at New England, with his second concussion of the season.

The team was 8-6 and hanging onto its playoff hopes by a thread. But McCarthy did what he does best, staying calm and consistent with his message and keeping his players together and focused.

At a time when others were questioning the coach and his players, he purposefully took on a swagger for public consumption and became defiant when things looked bleakest, boldly declaring "we're nobody's underdog."

He brought that attitude to Texas, saying in a news conference that he respected the Steelers but that "it's our time." Then he had the nerve to get his players measured for Super Bowl rings on Saturday night, a ploy that surely would have been criticized had the Packers lost.

"We felt we were a better team than Pittsburgh," McCarthy said. "No disrespect to them."

McCarthy crafted an aggressive game plan for the Super Bowl, putting the ball in Rodgers' hands and giving him the freedom to check out of plays.

"He did a great job at the line of scrimmage," the coach said. "We were really feeding off of how they were going to play our personnel groups. ... And Aaron's discipline and his ability to throw the ball away when it wasn't there ... just gave me the ability to be aggressive as a play-caller."

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