GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers finally can joke about the awkward and chilly reception he received from Packers fans early last season.
It's not often that a player is booed at an intrasquad scrimmage, especially in mild-mannered Green Bay. But that's exactly what happened to Rodgers last year as he bore the brunt of some fans' misguided blame for the standoff between the Packers' front office and longtime quarterback Brett Favre.
Rodgers eventually won them over, walking off the field to cheers after a season-ending victory over the Detroit Lions.
"If you would've told me at the beginning of the season we'd get a standing ovation leaving the field after our last game at 6-10, I would've said, 'Well, I was probably being carted off,'" Rodgers jokingly said. "But I wasn't. We had just beaten the Lions, and that was a special moment."
And while Favre's return to Lambeau Field on Sunday is stirring up angst among fans unsure how to jeer or cheer a once-popular Packer turned Minnesota Vikings villain, one thing is certain: They are rallying behind their starting quarterback.
"It's definitely all love, the relationship between myself and the fans," Rodgers said. "It's good."
And what's not to like? Going into Sunday's game, Rodgers ranks among the top 10 in virtually every major NFL statistical category for quarterbacks, despite being sacked 25 times in six games, the league's second-worst team total.
And Rodgers believes he'll get better.
"I still feel like my best is in front of me, and I'm always looking for ways to improve and being very critical of the way I've been playing," Rodgers said. "So I think as a quarterback, you've got to strive for that perfect game, and it's never really attainable, because there's always a couple things you're going to lie in bed at night and think about."
But Rodgers insists he didn't lose much sleep over the extra baggage that came along with his first season as a starter.
Making the move from backup to starter is hard enough for any quarterback -- but Rodgers had to do it while fans were chanting the name of his predecessor during a training-camp practice. Things didn't exactly get better when the Packers traded Favre to the New York Jets.
But if the initial lack of fan support bothered Rodgers, he never showed it.
"I feel like a stance like that would have portrayed me as wanting some sort of sympathy or self-pity on my part, and I never felt like that," Rodgers said. "I felt like I'd waited for three years to do something that I always wanted to do since I was 3 years old watching Joe Montana and running pass patterns with my dad in the back yard. That's the way I looked at it. I didn't look at it like I was going through something that was unfair to me, or I was innocent."
Rodgers compared the fallout from the Favre trade to his experience in the 2005 NFL Draft, when the University of California star wasn't picked as early as many expected and had to deal with disappointment in the spotlight.
"I just try to stay focused on the things I can control," Rodgers said. "I think I learned that as a 21-year-old sitting in the green room (at the 2005 draft) firsthand. That was kind of the beginning of just continuing to trust in my close friends and advisers and just hearing the same kind of thing -- that the things you should worry about, think about, spend your energy on are the things you can control."
Rodgers and Favre will face each other on the field Sunday, but they never were particularly close off of it. But Rodgers doesn't want to make a big deal out of the fact that he and Favre haven't recently spoken.
"That, again, was out of my control," Rodgers said. "I focused on the things I could control, and that situation was one that, again, I didn't worry about as much as there may have been emotions involved or may not have been, it was out of my control so I didn't worry about it."
In all, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers did an admirable job handling the Favre-related drama that started last season and will continue Sunday.
"Aaron wants to play football. He wants to win games. He's human, just like all of us," McCarthy said. "Has it been discussed? Yes, we've talked about it, but it doesn't do anything good to take it any further (than) that. It's a great situation for Aaron Rodgers. He's taken full advantage of it, and we're proud that he's our quarterback."