For the G

Evan Siegle/Green Bay Packers

I wouldn’t be a Packer today if it wasn’t for Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Graham.

Them and my mom.

When the Jaguars released me in 2018, I was blindsided. I saw it on the ESPN ticker before the team or my agent could even get ahold of me. I just remember being in shock, not knowing what to feel. I sank into my couch and sat there for like three hours reflecting on everything I had given to the game. My phone was blowing up, but I ignored it. I was too busy thinking about how 12 years in this league is a pretty big accomplishment. That’s a nice, long run. My family was set financially. I was proud of the career I’d had. And honestly … I thought that maybe, at age 33, it was the right time to retire.

Then I called my mom.

As soon as I mentioned retirement, she was not having it.

She said, “Do you still love the game?”

I said, “Yes, ma’am.”

“Do you feel like you still have something to give and that you can help a team win a championship?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Then why the hell are you talking about retiring?” she said. “If it’s something you love and you still have something left to give, then get your butt up off the couch, continue chasing your dream and do it for as long as you can.”

That conversation is the reason I’m still playing today.

That was in March 2018. A few weeks later, after the draft, my agent told me he had eight or nine teams asking about me, and that the Packers wouldn’t stop calling. And honestly, when I heard Green Bay, I was thinking, Nope. No way. It’s freezing up there.

You have to understand … I’m from Southern California. You know what it’s like in SoCal? It’s 75° and sunny with a slight breeze. I don’t care what time of year it is. That’s the forecast. And I was coming off 12 years playing down in Florida. 

So … Green Bay? Snow Bowls? Frozen Tundra? 

Nah. I’m out.

Then I got a call from Aaron Rodgers.

Dylan Buell/Getty

And I have to tell you: No matter how many years you’ve played in the NFL, or what you’ve accomplished, when a guy who’s destined for a gold jacket calls you up, you answer — and you listen. And I’m glad I did, because what he said to me still gives me chills to this day. He said, “I’ve followed your career and I know what you bring to the table. And to have a guy of your caliber — what you do on the field and how you lead — you’re the perfect piece for this puzzle.”

Then Jimmy hit me up and said the same, talking about how it would be an honor to be in the same tight ends room as me and to take the field with me and dominate together.

The next morning, I was on a 6 a.m. flight to Green Bay. And when I walked into the locker room, it was like a movie. It was only half lit up and A-Rod and Jimmy were the only two people there. They showed me around the locker room and we talked about the team and the culture. They gave me a tour of the stadium. We just hit it off, man. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I felt. The rapport was instantaneous, and I felt like even though I had just met them, I trusted them. I knew they were guys I could play with — guys I could play for — and that there was a lot more to Green Bay than I had ever imagined.

That was when I first saw myself as a Packer.

And that was also when I knew that Green Bay was a place where I could win a Super Bowl.

Todd Rosenberg/AP

I can’t imagine having spent the last four years anywhere else, or being with any other team as I head into my 17th season. And no disrespect to my Jacksonville people, who I still love and appreciate to this day, but … it’s just different in Green Bay. The Super Bowl isn’t a goal here. It’s an expectation. 

To a lot of players, that might feel big. Maybe too big for some guys. But I can tell you right now that when I look around our locker room — even at the young guys — it’s not too big for this group. 

It’s just part of the Green Bay experience.

Like Family Night. I mean, show me another team that packs 50,000 fans into its stadium, in August, to watch a live practice under the lights. You won’t find it. That’s unique to us.

Show me another team with a culture like we’ve got — a place where someone like Jimmy Graham will call another tight end and recruit him, knowing that it might mean fewer snaps or fewer targets for him. But he didn’t care. Because it wasn’t about him. It was about the team. It was about that G on his helmet. That’s not just a Jimmy thing. That’s a culture thing, top-down. 

Show me another place where when you walk through the building and out onto the field, it’s like you’re in an old NFL Films clip. You can imagine playing there in the snow — in 5° weather with a –9 wind chill and you can see your breath leave your body. The uniforms fit looser, like they did back in the day. Guys are dirty and beaten up, the tape unraveling off their wrists from the wet cold … you know what I mean?

It’s just … grit. Like that old-school kind of grit where teams have to come into your house in January and prove they’re tougher than you if they want to come out on top.

That’s unique.

That’s special.

That’s Green Bay.

Ric Tapia/AP

That’s all stuff I wanted no part of when I first heard that the Packers were calling. But now? I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s become a part of who I am. That’s what Green Bay does to people. If you really love football, the culture here is impossible not to embrace.

Especially if your goal is to win a Super Bowl — which, at this stage in my career, that’s all I want. 

And I’m not being a homer or just doing lip service by saying that I believe the team we have this year is capable of winning a Super Bowl.

I truly believe that.

That’s why I’m here.

I think the sky’s the limit for this offense.

Marcedes Lewis

A lot of people have been talking this off-season about our offense, wondering how we’re going to replace Davante Adams. And the answer is … we can’t. Davante is special, man. A guy who can produce like that, who the quarterback has the ultimate trust in, who has proven that he can make play after play even when the defense is game-planning to stop him?

There are not a lot of guys like that on the planet, let alone in one locker room.

But I believe in the young receiving corps we have. I mean, Randall Cobb is a little long in the tooth, like me, but you know what you’re getting with him: a reliable, steady, veteran leader who always seems to make a play when we need it. Allen Lazard has paid his dues and put in the work, and I’m excited to see him embrace his new role as a leader in that receivers room. Then you got Romeo Doubs, who has been making plays all throughout camp, and Christian Watson — an absolute specimen with crazy athleticism — out here Mossing guys at practice. Throw Sammy Watkins into the mix, plus Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon in the backfield and us getting Bobby Tonyan back on top of all that?

I think the sky’s the limit for this offense.

It’s just going to look different.

That’s something a lot of people don’t understand about this league. You have to reinvent yourself every year — as an individual, and as a team. Losing a guy like Davante is tough. But when you have 12 back there at quarterback, you know you have a chance every week. And as a veteran leader, it’s exciting to have so much young talent, because every week it will be someone else’s turn to step up and make a play when we need it. 

This group will be ready for whatever is in front of us.

Marcedes Lewis

One thing a lot of people don’t know is that we basically have two different playbooks: Matt LaFleur’s playbook, and Aaron Rodgers’s playbook. LaFleur’s playbook is the system, and A-Rod’s playbook is the checks, the hots, the cues coming off the line versus blitzes — he has any number of plays he can call at any time to exploit the defense. So these young receivers have had to basically learn two offenses. The learning curve is steep. But A-Rod, because of the way he sees the game, he’s like a scientist out there the way he can manipulate defenses and play situational football. So he’s a huge asset to these young guys in growing their understanding of the game and of how defenses operate at this level.

I’m just eager to see who will rise to the occasion when their number is called.

Ryan Kang/AP

Some people were surprised when I came back last year, and more surprised that I signed a two-year deal. But the truth is, like my mom told me, as long as I still love this game and I feel like I have something to contribute, I’m going to continue playing. 

Now, I’m not a rah-rah guy and I don’t do predictions. So the only thing I can truly guarantee is that this group will be ready for whatever is in front of us. This season will probably look different from what Packers fans are used to. It will be more of a journey, and how we end the season will very much depend on how much we grow as the season progresses. We get to figure out who we are as we go, then try to be the best version of that once the playoffs roll around.

That’s the challenge. 

That’s the fun part. 

I’m extremely proud to be a Packer and to be a part of this group. It’s been the experience of a lifetime, and the only thing that could make it better is capping it off with a Super Bowl.

So buckle up, Packers Nation. It’s going to be another great year, and everything we do, we’ll do it for you, for the guy next to us, and for that G on our helmet and everything it stands for.