KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sees the same thing as everyone else when he watches the Green Bay Packers‘ Aaron Rodgers play: one of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks.
He also sees a cautionary tale in terms of his own career. Rodgers, like Mahomes, won a Super Bowl championship early in his career but has been shut out since.
“It’s not about one guy in this sport,” Mahomes said Wednesday. “It’s about a team. I think Tom [Brady] kind of fools everybody because he’s won so many Super Bowls but it’s a hard deal to win Super Bowls in this league. It’s the best of the best.
“Every single year everybody is getting better. Everybody is bringing in new guys that have that hunger to try to go get it. Aaron is the best of the best and he’s played on a lot of great football teams but you have to have stuff go your way and I understand that. This season is telling that it’s not going to be every season that you’re coming in and winning every single game. You have to battle through adversity to try to be on top.”
A decade ago, Rodgers was in a similar spot as Mahomes today. He was 27 years old in the winter of 2011 when he quarterbacked the Packers to a Super Bowl championship. It was widely assumed at the time Rodgers would win many more titles. Even Rodgers — the day after the Packers’ Super Bowl victory — said he was looking forward to going after more.
“I always look for challenges,” he said then. “The challenge goes to repeating. We’ve got one, so now what? Let’s go get another one.”
Rodgers and the Packers haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since.
Mahomes and Rodgers won’t get their first on-field matchup on Sunday when the Chiefs face the Packers at Arrowhead Stadium (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox). Rodgers will miss the game after testing positive this week for COVID-19.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur opts not to reveal Aaron Rodgers’ vaccination status as the team prepares to play with Jordan Love at quarterback.
But Rodgers will presumably be back later in the season to rejoin Mahomes in the hunt for another Super Bowl victory. Still, nothing is promised to either player.
Eli Manning retired last year from the New York Giants as one of a handful of quarterbacks from recent seasons to have won a pair of Super Bowl championships. Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are the only active quarterbacks with more than one title.
Manning said recently when he looks back on both championships, he recalls how close the Giants were to not getting either title. The Giants won both of their Super Bowl games against the New England Patriots after making big fourth-quarter plays and scoring late touchdowns.
“We were close to not making the playoffs in both of those years,” Manning said. “So your career can be defined by plays early in the regular season that end up getting you in the playoffs. That can determine whether you win a Super Bowl or not. Then we got into the Super Bowl and we were down in both games in the fourth quarter and we needed a helmet catch in one and an amazing catch on the sideline to put you in position to win those games. A lot of things have to go your way.
“The championships go beyond one player and quarterback play. It’s a whole team thing and getting critical stops and other guys stepping up to make plays at big moments. Then you need the quarterbacks playing well but you’ve got to have those opportunities to do that.”
Mahomes threw 50 touchdown passes and for more than 5,000 yards in 2018, his first season as a starter. He led the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game, where they lost in overtime to Brady and the Patriots.
The Chiefs’ first Super Bowl title in 50 years followed the next season, when Mahomes was just 24 years old. The Chiefs made a repeat appearance in the Super Bowl last season, but they lost to Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It was widely assumed during this three-year run Mahomes would eventually win a fistful of rings and the Chiefs would have a dynasty. This talk was driven not just by their fans but the Chiefs as well.
In the summer of 2020, defensive tackle Chris Jones predicted the Chiefs would win “five-plus” championships, adding, “It’s time to build a dynasty.” Wide receiver Tyreek Hill suggested Jones was limiting the Chiefs’ possibilities and predicted seven more titles.
The Chiefs signed Mahomes to a contract extension in the summer after they won their title. Mahomes agreed to a team-friendly contract that in theory would leave the Chiefs the salary-cap resources for years to build a championship-caliber team around him.
“They wanted protections for Pat, but they also wanted to make sure Pat was surrounded by talent,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said of Mahomes’ agents at the time of the signing. “Pat is a long-term thinker, and Pat understands the long game here.
“Pat wants to win. He wants to start a dynasty and he wants to do all those things here in Kansas City.”
Last year the Chiefs appeared poised to win a second straight championship before their offensive line collapsed in the Super Bowl loss. They fixed their line during the offseason but now their defense has turned into one of the worst in the NFL and the Chiefs are a disappointing 4-4. They hardly seem like serious Super Bowl contenders and instead appear more in need of a roster refresh, particularly on defense.
Veach and the Chiefs will no doubt work on that in the offseason but inevitably some other issue will arise. It’s the nature of the NFL.
That’s why where it once appeared unthinkable Mahomes would be one and done when it came to Super Bowl championships, it looks more reasonable in light of what’s happened with Rodgers and the Packers.
“He’s so young,” Manning said of the 26-year-old Mahomes. “He’s got so many more years. He’s going to continue to grow as a player and learn and get better. I see him playing well, making playoff runs. But you don’t know when it’s going to be their year, when you just have something special and the guys around you step up in those big moments and you find a way to win it.
“He’s got a long career ahead of him. I imagine he’ll have more Super Bowls ahead of him but you don’t know. Even as good as he is, it’s still about the team and everything coming together. I see him as one of those guys who’s constantly in the playoffs but from there it’s somewhat out of his hands. It’s about the team coming together and making it happen.”
San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, LB Fred Warner out 1-2 weeks, coach Kyle Shanahan says
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers breathed a collective sigh of relief Monday after receiving important injury news on two of their best players.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that receiver Deebo Samuel and linebacker Fred Warner suffered groin and hamstring strains, respectively, in San Francisco’s 34-26 victory Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings.
The bad news is that both will miss at least Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. But Shanahan was more pleased by the fact that both players aren’t expected to miss more than a game or two as the 6-5 Niners make their push for an NFC playoff spot.
“That’s what I was kind of telling you guys last night that I hope for that it was just a strain,” Shanahan said. “And strains usually [last] anywhere from one to two weeks. I think it was very good news considering what it could have been.”
According to Shanahan, both Samuel and Warner could return as soon as the Dec. 12 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Barring a setback, both would be expected back in time for a Dec. 19 home game against the Atlanta Falcons.
While the Niners got relatively good news in the big picture, the loss of Samuel and Warner even for one week is significant.
Samuel has been the team’s most productive offensive player, establishing himself as the league’s premier multidimensional weapon.
On Sunday, Samuel became just the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards, five rushing touchdowns and five receiving scores in the same season.
Without Samuel, the Niners will look to second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk to continue building on his recent surge, as well as the likes of tight end George Kittle, wideout Jauan Jennings and a burgeoning running game.
“He’s been a big part of our offense,” Shanahan said. “But I think we’re in a spot right now that we can overcome that.”
Replacing Warner also won’t be easy, especially since it’s something the Niners haven’t had to do at any point in his three-plus seasons. When he misses Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, it will be the first contest Warner has missed since he came into the league in 2018, snapping a streak of 59 consecutive regular-season starts.
How that plays out this week will depend on the status of fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Greenlaw also left Sunday’s game with what Shanahan described as an “irritation” of the core muscle injury that had kept him out since Week 1. Greenlaw is considered day-to-day this week.
And with strongside linebacker Marcell Harris in the concussion protocol, the 49ers figure to enter the Seattle game woefully thin at linebacker. That puts even more onus on Al-Shaair, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the win against Minnesota.
“Azeez has been ready for anything we’ve asked him to do,” Shanahan said. “He always runs around and plays like his hair is on fire and he loves playing the football game. That’s not changing, but he’s just getting more and more confident of where to be, what to anticipate … He’s been playing at a high level all year and whether he’s inside or outside, I expect it to continue, we need it to continue, because he’s one of the reasons we’re playing pretty good right now.”
Elsewhere on the injury front, running back Trey Sermon suffered an ankle sprain that Shanahan said will keep him out “for a little while” and makes him a candidate to head to injured reserve with a chance to return later in the season.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers not expected to have surgery to repair broken toe during bye week
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday that Rodgers is “gathering other opinions, so we’ll see where that goes,” but a source said those opinions are not expected to lead to surgery during this week’s bye.
The Packers (9-3) are off until Dec. 12, when they’ll face the Chicago Bears in a Sunday night prime-time game.
“The most important thing is healing and taking care of my toe,” Rodgers said Sunday when asked about his bye-week plans.
NFL Network reported earlier on Monday that Rodgers does not plan to have surgery.
Rodgers said he fractured the toe during his COVID-19 quarantine earlier this month, and he has played in the past three games since with almost no on-field practice preparations.
The only full-fledged practice he took part in during that stretch was on Nov. 19, two days before the Packers’ loss at Minnesota. He said he received a pain-killing injection at halftime of the game against the Vikings but did not need one to play in Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Rams.
“The difference is I didn’t have to get shot up again at halftime, so definitely the healing this week not practicing [helped],” Rodgers said after he threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 36-28 win over the Rams.
“Last week, I tried to do some stuff on Friday, felt like we needed maybe a little jolt and that kind of impacted Sunday a little bit from a pain standpoint. This week, I just did a walk-through on Saturday and obviously all the walk-throughs during the week, but no practice time, I think really helped. It definitely helped looking at the scans. The healing, kind of get to a better spot, so I’ve definitely felt better, but third quarter, late third, early fourth and I got stepped on early in the game, there was definitely some pain I was dealing with.”
Rodgers even had a rushing touchdown on Sunday, beating Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey around the edge for a 1-yard score. In the past two games combined, Rodgers has thrown for 692 yards and six touchdowns without an interception.
He said after Sunday’s game that he would make a decision about surgery after additional tests on Monday.
“The toe felt good most of the game,” Rodgers said. “Was just actually in talking with the docs. Not sure at this point; we’re going to do some more testing in the morning and get a better view of what’s going on in there, and then make a decision at that time.”
LaFleur said previously that he would leave the decision up to Rodgers and the medical staff.
“I’m not involved in any of those decisions, so I just take any information and hear it,” LaFleur said. “I don’t have ‘M.D.’ after my name. So I’ll let them handle that.”
Dallas Cowboys DT Trysten Hill suspended two games for punching Las Vegas Raiders OG John Simpson
The suspension was issued by NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan for violations of unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct rules.
“After the Las Vegas Raiders-Dallas Cowboys game on November 25, you engaged in conduct that this office considers unnecessary roughness and displays a lack of sportsmanship. Specifically, as both teams were shaking hands, you waited more than 50 seconds for your opponent at the 50-yard line. When you located him, you then walked toward him in the opposite direction of your locker room. You both engaged in a verbal chest-to-chest confrontation which you escalated by throwing an open hand punch to his facemask, forcible enough to cause your opponent’s helmet to come off,” Runyan wrote in the letter to Hill.
Hill is appealing the suspension, a source told ESPN’s Todd Archer. Derrick Brooks or James Thrash, who are jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFLPA, will issue a ruling on the appeal.
If Hill’s suspension stands, he would be eligible to return to the Cowboys’ active roster on Monday, Dec. 13. He would miss games against the New Orleans Saints this Thursday and against the Washington Football Team on Dec. 12.
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