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O’HARA: Stafford, Rodgers sending the right message

Game 15 of this 2018 season, and No. 164 in Aaron Rodgers’ career, won’t stand out with any greater significance than most of the others that have made him one of the all-time great quarterbacks and certain to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame five years after retirement.

It went in the books as a 44-38 overtime road win for the Green Bay Packers over the New York Jets last Sunday and might give the Packers some sort of momentum heading into Sunday’s season-ending home game against the Detroit Lions.

It was another day of dazzling stats created by Rodgers’ arm and legs in a clutch performance that has been his calling card for 11 seasons as the Packers’ starting quarterback.

It was nothing really out of the ordinary, for Rodgers, anyway. He had 442 yards passing and two touchdowns, two touchdown runs and a run for a two-point conversion. He topped it off with a 16-yard pass to wide receiver Davante Adams for the winning touchdown in overtime.

The only real question for Rodgers to answer after the game was why he continues to play despite a knee injury in a season when the Packers will miss the playoffs for a second straight season.

What message is Rodgers sending – and insisting he will start Sunday against the Lions – with the Packers buried in third place in the NFC North with a 6-8-1 won-loss-tied record?

“That it matters,” Rodgers told reporters after the game. “That even when the record isn’t great, you’re not going to the playoffs, that it still matters.”

Matthew Stafford has made similar statements when asked why he continues to start for the Lions with a back injury and other ailments he’s dealt with in a season that got off track early and never got back on. He has a streak of 127 straight regular-season starts.

“I spend all offseason and all season working hard to play in games with these teammates and this organization,” Stafford said last week. “So, take no games for granted and go out there and play whenever I feel like I can.”

Players in general, and quarterbacks in particular, play because it’s their job as team leaders.

It was evident in Rodgers’ comments that competition and commitment to teammates drives him to play whenever is reasonably possible regardless of where the team is in the standings.

“I love competing in anything,” Rodgers said. “I don’t want to look back in 20 years and wonder, ‘What if I maybe played that game? Could something special have happened?’

“What would it look like to my teammates if they knew I kind of quit on them? I hope my teammates know I’m not going to quit on them. I’m going to battle through anything I’ve got. They did the same.”

Beating the Jets gave Green Bay its only road win of the season. Rodgers felt it was important for the future.

“It’s good so young guys get to see what it feels like, what it feels like in the locker room on the road with a win, what the plane ride feels like,” Rodgers said.

“I told the guys before the game, this will be a character game. It will show what kind of pride we have, what kind of mental toughness we have, what we’re willing to lay on the line for our teammates. Obviously, those guys laid it on the line and played really well.

“I like to put my body on the line for my teammates, let them they know I want to be out there. That it matters. That their presence on the field matters as well.

“Hopefully, they saw that this week. They saw us battle. Maybe that sticks with them and means something down the line. We need it.”

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