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Rodgers gave Packers 'sigh of relief' in Texas

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STEPHEN HAWKINS
February 3, 2011
— The first significant action for Aaron Rodgers as Green Bay's quarterback came at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Three seasons ago at Texas Stadium, Rodgers took over after Brett Favre injured his elbow with 10 minutes left in the first half. Even though the Packers lost, Rodgers gave them a taste of what he could do.


"I think it was more for my teammates and the organization I think they kind of took it as a sigh of a relief here, 'OK, this guy might turn out to be a decent player,'" Rodgers said Wednesday. "Personally, I felt like I was capable of that. I had done it in practice and I had done it in preseason, but I had not in a big-time game like that."


On Sunday, Rodgers starts in the biggest game of all in the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh at Cowboys Stadium, the massive palace that replaced Texas Stadium before the 2009 season.


On that Thursday night in November 2007, in a matchup of 10-1 teams, Rodgers completed 18 of 26 passes for 201 yards. He didn't play again for the Packers until the 2008 season opener, when he was the starter after Favre's departure from Green Bay.


Rodgers threw his first career touchdown pass before halftime against the Cowboys, then completed his first six attempts in the second half.


"It gave everyone confidence," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "That is a big step for any quarterback to get into an NFL game because you go in as a number two. You don't have the reps during the course of the week leading up to that game. To be in there and be able to perform, keep your team in the football game and give your team a chance to win, is an excellent big step for a quarterback. And he achieved that that night."


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WANT MY BALL BACK: In the final minute of Pittsburgh's last Super Bowl two years ago, linebacker LaMarr Woodley sacked Arizona's Kurt Warner and forced a fumble to clinch the Steelers' 27-23 victory.


And he wants the ball back from teammate Brett Keisel, who recovered the fumble.


Keisel initially offered the ball to Woodley, who turned it down.


"I made a mistake," Woodley said. "After the game, in the locker room, he said, 'Hey, LaMarr, do you want the football?' And I said, 'No, man, keep it.' ... But now he won't give it back to me."


Even this week, with the Steelers preparing to play Green Bay, Woodley again asked about the ball. It looks as though he'll have to settle for trying to get another one Sunday.


"This time, he owes me a football," Woodley said. "Hopefully he'll go out there and get me one."


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ALL DRIVER WANTS: Packers receiver Donald Driver, finally in his first Super Bowl after 12 seasons, knows what he wants for his birthday: a win.


Driver turned 36 on Wednesday.


"I don't care about singing. My kids will do all that for me later on," Driver said. "My birthday always ends up being the week of the Super Bowl and I never end up getting that gift. I hope to get that gift this year."


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ALUMNI DUES: NFL Alumni Association executive director George Martin is hoping this year to finally get increased pension benefits and better long-term health care for former players.


Nine months after being picked to lead the group of about 4,000 members, Martin said Wednesday that the top concern of retired NFL players is the same as it has been for so long: "pension increases, pension benefits."


What Martin termed "Campaign 2011" comes as the NFL and current players have to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. The current deal expires in a month.


"There's been much ballyhoo, much discussions (about the CBA)," he said. "If anything's talked about, 18-game schedule to a possible rookie wage scale, all of those things do not impact the lives of retired players. I think it's just merely a fortuitous opportunity for us that it coincides with the expiration of the CBA."


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FULLY CAPTIONED: Now all those Super Bowl commercials will be captioned for everyone to enjoy.


Sunday will mark the first fully captioned national broadcast of the Super Bowl, including all national commercials and promotions, for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.


The National Association of the Deaf applauded the NFL and Fox for their commitment to the achievement of 100 percent closed captioning.


The Super Bowl broadcast has been captioned for years, but not all the commercials were accessible that way.


The NAD said at least 36 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States rely on captioning. Many others, such as those watching the game in noisy public places like bars and restaurants, also benefit from captions.



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