GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Aaron Rodgers, the kid from Chico who would wear a Joe Montana T-shirt under his pads, is playing Sunday to keep from wearing an Alex Smith jersey next week.
That's the latest twist in the tale of Rodgers and Smith, who are forever linked after being the top two quarterbacks in the 2005 draft.
Smith (Utah) and Rogers (Cal) were together in the green room in New York at the start of the draft. But they did not get much time to socialize that day. The 49ers chose Smith with the No. 1 overall pick. Rodgers had a considerably longer wait, as the Green Bay Packers selected him with the No. 24 overall pick.
On Sunday, the 49ers and the Packers -- Smith and Rodgers -- meet at Lambeau Field. Smith and Rodgers have played in the same game on only one previous occasion.
Smith was pretty good that day, throwing for 227 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers was exceptional. He passed for 344 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers' 30-24 victory at Lambeau Field in November 2009.
As if Rodgers needs any more incentive to play well, he has a lot riding on this game, TMZ reported Saturday.
Rodgers is friends with the members of the group Boyz II Men. Rodgers asked the group to sing the National Anthem on Sunday. One of the members, Nathan Morris, is a big fan of the 49ers. He proposed a friendly wager to Rodgers.If Green Bay wins, Morris would wear a Rodgers jersey. If the 49ers win, Rodgers must wear an Alex Smith jersey for the remainder of the week.
Rodgers, last year's consensus NFL Most Valuable Player, told the Bay Area media this week on a conference call that he is a fan of Smith's -- but, clearly, not enough of a fan to wear his jersey without losing a bet.
However, Rodgers defended Smith. And he bristled at the widely used term to describe Smith as a "game manager."
"I think that term is a condescending term for quarterbacks," Rodgers said. "I don't think he's a game manager. I think he's a guy who takes care of the football and makes a lot of plays. I don't think he got the respect he deserves.
"Smith and Rodgers, in effect, competed against each other coming out of college. The 49ers brought in both players for visits before the organization decided on Smith. Coincidentally, current Packers coach Mike McCarthy, the 49ers offensive coordinator at the time, agreed with the 49ers' decision to go with Smith.
Rodgers said this week that there's no lingering bitterness with the organization. And after all these years, Rodgers and Smith consider each other friends.
"It's funny, just going through that, (we) kind of became pretty good friends, had a lot in common," Smith said. "Just kind of been able to keep track and stay connected in the offseason and when we play each other and things like that. This offseason (I) got a chance to play with him up in Tahoe and it was a lot of fun up there. (I) talked to him a few times here and there, a good friend."Said Rodgers, "I've been friends with him since we were 21, and I've followed his career. I definitely pull for him and enjoy watching him play.
"Their styles and responsibilities are quite different. Rodgers is prolific. He threw for 4,643 yards last season with 45 touchdowns. Rodgers destroyed the NFL record for passing efficiency with a rating of 122.5.Even 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's lofty praise cannot be considered hyperbole."I don't know of anybody that's ever played the quarterback position at the level he's playing at now, and has been playing at," Harbaugh said. "Just phenomenal, phenomenal.
"Meanwhile, Smith ranked 19th in the NFL with 3,144 yards passing and threw 17 touchdowns in 16 regular-season games.
But there are two areas in which Smith and Rodgers both excelled during the regular season. Their teams won. The Packers (15-1) and 49ers (13-3) were the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs. And both quarterback were exceptional at taking care of the football.Rodgers tossed just six interceptions in 502 pass attempts."A great way to explain him is he's Drew Brees with great scrambling ability, and actually a little stronger arm," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "And the guy right now is at the top of his game and many people think he's the best quarterback in the NFL.
"The most amazing thing about his season last year was, for how often they threw the ball and how aggressive they were throwing it, he only threw six interceptions, which to me is probably the most amazing stat when you're looking at these guys."Smith's interception rate was slightly better. He threw just five picks in 445 pass attempts. Smith also attempted 68 passes in the two playoff games without an interception.Smith enters Sunday's game with 159 consecutive regular-season pass attempts without an interception. He trails only Steve Young for the team record of 184 attempts without an interception.
Both the 49ers and Packers defenses thrived last year in forcing turnovers. They tied for the NFL lead with 38 takeaways. And that's what might decide Sunday's game.And it might decide Rodgers' wardrobe for the week.
@aaronrodgers12 And get ready to wear that Alex Smith jersey SON!!!! Lol lol Nathan (@MorrisPhD) May 7, 2012