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Garland Green, left, who now lives in Israel, and Jeff Glessing posed outside Cowboys Stadium before Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas, last February.

© Lucy Nicholson / Reuters, Reuters

Reusse: Don't fault Rodgers for carrying chip

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE
  • Star Tribune
  • November 12, 2011 - 11:24 PM

Garland Green was sitting in his condo in Netanya, Israel, drinking coffee and looking at the Mediterranean Sea, when his cell phone went off early Saturday morning.

Three years earlier, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was getting ready to make his first regular-season start for the Green Bay Packers in a Monday night opener against the Vikings.

There had been months of drama, starting with Brett Favre's tearful retirement announcement in March 2008, and his affirmation of that retirement when the Packers went to Mississippi to make sure, and his attempt to return to Green Bay, and finally his trade to the New York Jets on Aug. 6.

Rodgers was the man in the middle of this. He was taken with the 24th overall pick in 2005 and waited three years as Favre's backup. He was the player taking the heat when the Packers decided to put Favre's machinations behind them and move on.

On that Monday afternoon, in the parking lots across from Lambeau Field, the Packers fans milled -- and did so wearing thousands of Favre No. 4 jerseys in green and gold.

There were also several sightings of Jets jerseys bearing Favre's name and No. 4. And in the tailgating area where I was talking to fans there was a single Packers jersey with Rodgers' No. 12. It was being worn by Garland Green, then of Menomonie, Wis.

"Wearing this jersey is a statement," Green said on that afternoon. "It's a reminder to people that Aaron Rodgers is a young man who doesn't want anything more than a chance to play.

"He waited for three years behind Brett, and then got caught up in the middle of an unbelievably chaotic situation that was none of his making.

"He's our quarterback, and I'm going to cheer for him, and I wish the whiners would grow up and do the same."

Several folks nearby in Favre jerseys heard the "whiners" reference and started hooting at Green. There was widespread ridicule at the idea this Rodgers lad had a chance to be a worthy replacement for Favre -- not that night, not ever.

Now, halfway through Rodgers' fourth season as the quarterback, and talking on cell phone from Israel, Green was asked to recall what it was like to be a Packers fan with a Rodgers jersey in 2008.

"It was ugly," he said. "The Favre-ians were out of control. It's too bad what they put that young man through.

"As much of a hard time as some of my Packer friends gave me, I knew I was right about Rodgers. I had seen him play in the preseason. I saw talent, I saw toughness, I saw confidence."

Green paused. Presumably, he sipped his coffee and took another gaze at the sea.

"You know what I really liked about Rodgers?'' Green said. "He had a chip on his shoulder. He had to wait three years to play, and he didn't like that.

"I spent six years in the Marine Corps. I know what it's like to look in the eyes of someone with a chip on his shoulder.

"Rodgers plays with that every week. All the great things that have happened for him with the Packers, I think it still motivates him -- having to wait to play, and how he was treated by people when he first got the chance to play.

"Oh, yeah. Look at him. There's something burning inside that guy."

Green was able to secure tickets with friend Jeff Glessing for the Packers' Super Bowl victory in Dallas on Feb. 6. They wore sombreros and Packers ponchos, adorned with cheeseheads. A photo of the pair was taken by Reuters and appeared on numerous websites and in newspapers.

The Favre-ians were mute. In three seasons, Rodgers had equaled Favre's number of Super Bowl championships at one. It was with complete vindication that Green could start a new job in July:

A two-year assignment as the director of technology for the American International School in Even Yehuda, Israel.

Green paid $249 for the NFL Ticket and faithfully watches the Packers on satellite.

"There's an eight-hour time difference, so I'm a little short of sleep some Mondays when I get to work," Green said. "And for the Monday night game against the Vikings ... I'll have to adjust my hours. I can't miss that one.''

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon to 4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. • preusse@startribune.com

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