Gun­slingers Rodgers, Brady set for rare duel

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS -

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 skillset 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 be--

fore 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 ‘ what-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.

“There’s a lot of pride in that legacy part of your ca­reer, and I think him and I both feel the same way about our or­ga­ni­za­tions.” T.O. GETS HALL OF FAME

RING » Ter­rell Owens came back to his roots to get his Hall of Fame ring.

Owens was set to be pre­sented with the ring dur­ing a half­time cer­e­mony dur­ing Thurs­day night’s game be­tween the San Fran­cisco 49ers and the Oak­land Raiders.

Owens spent the first eight sea­sons with the 49ers, es­tab­lish­ing him­self as one of the best play­ers in the game dur­ing his ten­ure in San Fran­cisco.

“This is awe­some,” Owens said be­fore the game, while wear­ing his gold Hall of Fame jacket. “This is an op­por­tu­nity to give some­thing to the fans. Ever since I left in 2003 and went on and did some great things, but this is where it started my first eight years of my ca­reer.”

Owens was voted into the Hall of Fame ear­lier this year but skipped the in­duc­tion cer­e­mony in Can­ton, Ohio, to hold his own cel­e­bra­tion at his col­lege in Chat­tanooga, Ten­nessee. Owens ranked sec­ond all-time to Jerry Rice in yards re­ceiv­ing (15,934). LONG­TIME WRITER ZIM­MER­MAN DIES » Paul Zim­mer­man, the long­time Sports Il­lus­trated NFL writer known as “Dr. Z” for his an­a­lyt­i­cal ap­proach, died Thurs­day. He was 86.

NBC Sports foot­ball writer Peter King conf irmed Zim­mer­man’s death.

King worked with Zim­mer­man at Sports Il­lus­trated, and com­pleted Zim­mer­man’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “Dr. Z: The Lost-Mem­oirs of an Ir­rev­er­ent Foot­ball Writer.”

Zim­mer­man brief ly played col­lege foot­ball at Stan­ford and Columbia, and cov­ered the New York Jets for the New York Post for 13 years. He also worked for the Sacra­mento Bee, New York Jour­nal-Amer­i­can and the New York World-Tele­gram & Sun be­fore join­ing SI in 1979.

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