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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers not feeling extra pressure, says his future is ‘beautiful mystery’

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Everyone else might be wondering how many chances Aaron Rodgers will get at a Super Bowl, but the Green Bay Packers quarterback says he’s not one of them.

Just days away from his fifth NFC Championship Game — and his fourth since his lone Super Bowl appearance 10 years ago — Rodgers insisted that he’s not looking at Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a best last-chance scenario. Not even at age 37 and with his possible eventual replacement now on the roster.

“I’m always just trying to stay present, especially this year as much as anything, and enjoy the moments,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “I hope there’s more opportunities, but I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t. That stuff is out of my control. My future is a beautiful mystery I think. The present is such a gift to be able to stay in the moment and to have gratitude for being in this situation again, and being with the guys and having fans in our stadium and maybe snow in an NFC Championship Game. I’m going to enjoy these moments for sure, and just not worry about what happens down the line.”

That’s been Rodgers’ approach most of the season. After the Packers traded up to draft quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of last year’s draft, Rodgers acknowledged that he might no longer be able to control how his time ends in Green Bay.

But since that moment, his teammates and coaches have reported Rodgers to be in as good a mood as they’ve seen from him. The result might end up being Rodgers’ third career MVP.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity again to be leading these guys, to have played the way I want to play, to be called upon for a greater leadership role,” Rodgers said. “Those things are really, really important to me. But all that other stuff … is stuff that I’m just not going to focus on. Because to me it is a beautiful mystery what happens down the line, but there’ll be a time when we meet that future, and right now I’m just going to enjoy the present.”

He’s still looking for that second Super Bowl appearance. The Packers were blown out by the San Francisco 49ers in last year’s conference title game. The Packers equaled their 13-3 record from a year ago, but this time they’re the No. 1 seed and have the NFL’s top-scoring offense. Rodgers has said after each of the past two NFC Championship Game losses that he has wanted to have this game at home. Now he has it.

“No more pressure than usual,” Rodgers said when asked if there’s more pressure on him and the Packers this year. “I think a lot of times the storylines, pressure and those kinds of comments are good stuff for you guys to write about, but I think it starts with the mentality and focus. Obviously I put pressure on myself to perform every single week, and I think there’s a lot to be said for being able to harness that pressure and fear of failure and focus into a real positive. That’s something you learn over the years. But I don’t feel any extra pressure going into this one.

“Definitely thankful to be back here. A lot of people didn’t think we’d be back here after last season. We got a lot of interesting comments last year about us being the worst 13-3 team that people had seen. Not the same type of comments this [time]. Obviously we’re clicking a lot better on offense, I do feel really thankful to be back here, thankful for the chance to be playing.”

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Kansas City Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz has back surgery, eyes healthy 2021 season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz said Wednesday on social media that he is hoping for a healthy 2021 season after undergoing surgery for a back injury that prematurely ended his season in 2020.

“I was hoping to recover enough during the season to get back on the field, especially for the playoffs and Super Bowl, but that never happened,” Schwartz wrote on his Instagram account.

Schwartz also posted a photo of himself in a hospital gown, cap and face mask, smiling and with his thumb up, apparently awaiting the surgery.

“It’s time to address the issue since it isn’t going away on its own,” he wrote. “The recovery process isn’t too long, hence being able to wait until now to do it, otherwise I would have done this earlier.”

Schwartz, a 2018 first-team All-Pro, had never missed a snap from the start of his career in 2012 with the Cleveland Browns until 2019, after he had joined the Chiefs. He also didn’t miss a start in 2019.

But his streak of 134 consecutive regular-season starts ended this past season. He left the Chiefs’ Week 6 game against the Buffalo Bills with a back injury and didn’t return the rest of the season, not even to practice.

Schwartz, 31, indicated in the Instagram post that he was anticipating the start of a new streak next season.

“Looking forward to a healthy 2021!” he wrote.



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Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. turns Super Bowl LV taunting fine into positive with donation to school

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Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is donating $7,815, the amount he was fined for taunting the Kansas City ChiefsTyreek Hill in Super Bowl LV, to support the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Youth Leadership Program at Tampa’s Young Middle Magnet School.

The Buccaneers Foundation, in turn, is matching his donation, making the donation $15,630 total to the school.

“Since it got a lot of media attention, it was out there and I wanted to just spin it in a way to make it positive,” Winfield told the team’s website.

Winfield has been a mentor to students through the program, part of the Buccaneers’ social justice initiative. After Winfield was fined, fans asked if they could pay the fine but he is encouraging them to donate to the school instead.

“Our district is deeply appreciative, not only for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but also Antoine Winfield, Jr. for this monetary donation that will make a strong impact at Young Middle Magnet,” superintendent Addison Davis said, according to the team’s website. “Taking an unfortunate situation and turning it into a positive one is the measure of a true champion, and a wonderful example for our students and entire community.”

Winfield received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for making a peace sign in Hill’s face as the Chiefs receiver was getting up off the field in the fourth quarter with the Buccaneers comfortably ahead.

After the Buccaneers’ 31-9 victory, Winfield told reporters he was only returning the favor to Hill, who he said made a similar gesture to him during the regular season in a game the Chiefs won 27-24. Hill scored three touchdowns and had 269 yards receiving on 13 receptions in that game but was held to seven catches, 73 yards and no touchdowns in the Super Bowl.

“The taunting, man it’s something I had to do. When we played them earlier, Hill went off on us. He backflipped right in front of my face and gave me the peace sign. So, it was only right that I gave him the peace sign right back to him. It felt amazing to be able to do that,” he told reporters.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter contributed to this report.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul having surgery on left knee

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TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul is undergoing a surgical procedure on his left knee on Wednesday, he posted on social media.

The three-time Pro Bowler posted news of the procedure, which was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET, on his Instagram Story.

In July, Pierre-Paul underwent arthroscopic surgery on the same knee to clean up cartilage that was causing discomfort.

He was on the injury report throughout the 2020 season with the knee injury, even missing a practice leading up to the Super Bowl, but he did not miss a game this season.

He finished the 2020 season with a team-leading 9.5 sacks and a career-high 4 forced fumbles, with 2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. His two sacks played a key role in defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship.

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