GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers isn't quite sure what Mike McCarthy is talking about with this "salty" business, but the Green Bay Packers quarterback acknowledged Tuesday that he and his head coach have had their moments of disagreement — both this season, and in the past — and that, like McCarthy, he believes their relationship is stronger for it.
On Monday, in response to a question about how Rodgers has played this season, McCarthy's reply focused on something beyond Rodgers' quarterback rating and completion percentage.
"I tell you what, I love the way Aaron Rodgers is playing right now," McCarthy said during his usual day-after-the-game press conference following the Packers' 19-17 victory at Baltimore. "He's playing some really adverse football. This is very healthy for our football team in the long run.
"I don't like it. I don't like that I have to stand here and talk about the health of our team every week. But let's not forget who that affects most on offense. He's been asked to do things on the run that he's adapted to. He's played through some frustrating moments.
"I like him when he's salty and conflicting and all that. It's good to see that side of him. (The players) are all competitive, don't get me wrong. But he has a tremendous competitive streak in him. That's why sometimes I think we can all get caught up in the numbers and go 'Wow.' But I really like the way he's playing right now."
Asked why it's good that Rodgers is "salty," McCarthy replied, "Conflict is good."
Three weeks ago, the FOX Sports' cameras caught McCarthy and Rodgers having a somewhat heated exchange about play-calling during the Packers' loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 22. Rodgers also second-guessed his coach publicly a few times last season.
"I think conflict is definitely a good thing for our relationship," Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday
. "Tom (Clements, the Packers' former quarterbacks coach) and I had conflict. Ben (McAdoo, the Packers' current quarterbacks coach) and I have had conflict. Mike and I have had conflict. You have to have conflict if you want to grow.
"It's not always a confrontation. Conflict can be a disagreement about the plan - on what you want to do to attack 'em. I think there is a way of going about and doing it that can get things done. Ninety-nine percent of that has been behind closed doors. That's the way that we like to do things around here in Green Bay.
"Every now and then something will slip out there and fans will see it on TV and wonder if there is an issue. Behind closed doors, I think Mike and I and whoever it might be that has had conflict we laugh about it because it's part of the process."That process has changed over the years. Rodgers was a rookie the last time the Packers had played in Baltimore — McCarthy was the San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator at the time, while Mike Sherman was the Packers head coach — and Rodgers found himself thinking about how long he and McCarthy have been working together during the flight east.
"Mike and I have been together for eight years. It's amazing," Rodgers said. "How many people were on that plane in 2005 to Baltimore? Not many. That says a lot about the longevity we've been able to have — myself and the other members who were on that flight in '05. This staff came in in '06 and is still here. Eight years together and there has been minor changes on offense and one change over on defense. you go through a lot in a player-coach relationship and I'm happy where it is at with Mike. We've definitely got a lot of good memories together."
Through five games, Rodgers has completed 118 of 184 passes (64.1 percent) for 1,646 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions with 14 sacks for a passer rating of 101.9. Rodgers, the NFL's all-time career leader in passer rating, ranks fifth in that category this season and is on pace for 13 interceptions, which would tie his career high set in 2008, his first year as a starter. On Sunday against the Ravens, amid losing wide receivers James Jones (knee) and Randall Cobb (leg) to first-half injuries, Rodgers completed just 17 of 32 passes for 315 yards with one touchdown, one interception and three sacks (84.8 rating). Rodgers also fumbled twice on sacks, although the Packers kept possession each time.
Asked the same question about his play as his coach had been asked the day before, Rodgers acknowledged his stats might be down this season — and said he's fine with that if it translates to winning.
"You know what? I'm happy that we're 3-2," Rodgers said. "There's been some throws you obviously would love to have back, and fumbling twice in the game is not really the way I've been accustomed to playing. But it was a tough five weeks.
"When you looked at the schedule before the season, you knew that was going to be as tough of a start in my six years that we've had. I'm not saying it gets any easier after this, but that was a tough stretch for us and now we have 11 (games) left — six at home, five on the road, five (NFC North) division games. This is where, with the injuries we have had, this is where we're going to figure out what kind of team we're going to be. And I understand my role and my responsibility.
"I think I can definitely play better but I think at this point, it's not about the stats. I've put up many seasons with many gaudy statistical marks. The year that we won the Super Bowl, I would not say that was one of those years. It wasn't one of those years where I was off the charts stats wise. We won a Super Bowl that year, so I'll do whatever it takes for us to win. I love the fact we're running the football well. I need to take care of the ball better. And I will. And I expect us to be successful."