Mu­tual re­spect be­tween Brady, Rodgers, who meet for 2nd time

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Nfl - As­so­ci­ated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are uni­ver­sally re­garded as two of the best quar­ter­backs of their gen­er­a­tion.

Brady has spent the bet­ter part of his 19 sea­sons in the NFL eclips­ing vir­tu­ally ev­ery mile­stone set by his pre­de­ces­sors. Along the way, he’s cap­tured ev­ery ma­jor piece of hard­ware the league has to of­fer, from mul­ti­ple MVPs to Su­per Bowl ti­tles, all while re­main­ing at the top of his game at 41.

Rodgers isn’t as dec­o­rated as Brady but has been just as cel­e­brated dur­ing his 14-year ca­reer for a free-wheel­ing style and an uncanny abil­ity to pull off plays that have been rarely du­pli­cated by his peers.

Be­tween them, they have five reg­u­lar-sea­son MVP awards, nine Su­per Bowl ap­pear­ances and six Su­per Bowl rings.

Yet when the Pa­tri­ots host the Pack­ers on Sun­day night, it will mark just the sec­ond time that the fu­ture Hall of Famers have squared off as start­ing quar­ter­backs. Rodgers won the first meet­ing in 2014 in a game in which they com­bined for 613 pass­ing yards and four touch­downs in Green Bay’s five-point vic­tory at Lam­beau Field.

Rodgers capped that sea­son by win­ning his sec­ond reg­u­lar-sea­son MVP tro­phy. Brady went on to hoist his fourth Su­per Bowl ti­tle.

Watch­ing each other’s suc­cess from afar has bred a deep re­spect be­tween them. Rodgers for Brady’s longevity. Brady for the skill set Rodgers brings to the po­si­tion.

“Tom’s been at the top of his game for over a decade,” Rodgers said. “Ob­vi­ously, we play a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent style of game, but the stuff that he does well is stuff that over my ca­reer, I’ve tried to in­cor­po­rate into my own game.

“I en­joy com­pet­ing against great play­ers and ob­vi­ously Tom is right at the top.”

It’s sim­i­lar to how Brady de­scribes Rodgers.

“What he’s done as a quar­ter­back, I think it is in­spir­ing even for me,” Brady said. “I watch his game and it makes me want to get out there and prac­tice and im­prove be­cause I think he’s so phe­nom­e­nal with the way he man­ages him­self in the pocket, and his abil­ity to throw the foot­ball is un­like any­one prob­a­bly in the his­tory of the league.”

Though he wants to play un­til he’s 45, Brady will pre­sum­ably re­tire be­fore Rodgers, leav­ing the 34-year-old time to nar­row the gap be­tween them in ca­reer num­bers.

But nei­ther is in­ter­ested in play­ing the hy­po­thet­i­cal game about who the bet­ter quar­ter­back is.

“I don’t re­ally try to get into the w`hat-if ’ game,” Rodgers said. “I’m for­tu­nate to have been drafted here and sit be­hind Brett (Favre) for three years. He was ob­vi­ously drafted late there so his chip might have been a lit­tle bit big­ger than mine start­ing out his ca­reer.”

Here are some things to watch for in Sun­day’s game:

Mile­stone watch: Brady enters Sun­day’s game sec­ond in NFL his­tory for the most com­bi­na­tion pass­ing, rush­ing and re­ceiv­ing yards in the reg­u­lar sea­son and play­offs. Pey­ton Man­ning tops the list with 79,978 yards. Brady is next with 79,781.

Safety dance: The trade of Ha Ha Clin­ton-Dix means that the Green Bay Pack­ers are with­out a five-year starter at safety.

Clin­ton-Dix, who led the team with three in­ter­cep­tions, was the most ex­pe­ri­enced player at a po­si­tion that was still mired by in­con­sis­tency. Pos­si­ble re­place­ments in­clude Jer­main White­head, who missed prac­tice at mid­week with a back in­jury, or Josh Jones, a sec­ond-year player who missed time ear­lier this year with an an­kle in­jury. Vet­eran cor­ner­back Tra­mon Wil­liams also has a cou­ple of games of ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing safety. Cor­ner­back Bashaud Bree­land ap­pears to be get­ting health­ier from a ham­string in­jury and might be ready to play.

A long way: Da­vante Adams was a rookie the last time these teams played in 2014 at Lam­beau Field. That 26-21 win by the Pack­ers was a mile­stone game for Adams, now Green Bay’s No. 1 re­ceiver.

Adams had six catches for 121 yards, tak­ing ad­van­tage of more tar­gets af­ter the Pa­tri­ots elected to blan­ket thenNo. 1 wide­out Jordy Nel­son. Now the roles might be re­versed, and Adams could be the player who gets ex­tra at­ten­tion. If that’s the case, it won’t be much dif­fer­ent from what Adams has faced all year. He has had at least 132 yards re­ceiv­ing in each of the past three games.

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