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Packers GM Brian Gutekunst: 'Bittersweetness' moving on from Aaron Rodgers, but 'really excited' for Jordan Love era

The post-Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay began Wednesday, when the Packers' trade to send the quarterback to the Jets became official.

That didn't mean questions regarding Rodgers were going to just disappear from Wisconsin. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst attempted to summarize everything regarding the Rodgers trade Wednesday, hours after Rodgers was introduced as the newest Jet and just over 24 hours before the start of the 2023 NFL Draft.

In short, the Packers are happy to move on, and are pleased with the return they received on Rodgers. They also aren't going to get involved in recounting why they weren't able to convince Rodgers to give it another season in Green Bay, even after Rodgers provided a convoluted explanation that dealt with cell phone reception and FaceTime.

"We're not gonna get into those details," Gutekunst said. "I understand the question. We tried to communicate on a number of levels. Once we couldn't, we communicated with his agents quite a bit. I'm not gonna get into that. It's not good for us, not good for them. And we're just gonna kind of move forward. But I appreciate the question. But there was no lack of effort and communication on that part from us. I think this is a good day for the Packers, good day for the Jets."

Though Gutekunst would not go into detail, Rodgers seemed to indicate that the Packers didn't follow his preferred method of face-to-face communication.

"I will say, people that know me, I'm fortunate to live in a beautiful house. The only downside is I have very limited cell service," Rodgers said earlier Wednesday. "So if you want to get ahold of me, I have to see your face. You have to FaceTime me. So, the only response to the communication thing is, there's records in your phone about who called you, when, FaceTime, and there wasn't any specific FaceTimes from any of those numbers that I was looking at. That's neither here nor there because now we're in this position.

"Obviously, that's the direction they wanted to go as far as the story they couldn't get ahold of me, which led for this to be the case. My point was, if there was a change that wanted to be made, why wasn't that told to me early in the offseason. Now, obviously, my future was undecided at that time. I didn't know if I wanted to keep playing. I wanted to go into my darkness retreat and sit with it and contemplate. But when I came out, it was evident that it was retire or move on to a new team."

The Packers and Jets didn't make this trade happen overnight. It took more than a month for both sides to hash out the details, including "a lot of back and forth" over the conditions of the 2024 second-round pick New York sent to Green Bay that can become a first depending on how much Rodgers plays for the Jets in 2023. Ultimately, they were able to find common ground, mercifully bringing an end to their negotiations and the saga of Rodgers in Green Bay.

"I wouldn't say there was anything like one hard piece, it just took a long time, longer than I expected," Gutekunst said. "I think they were going through a lot of things, trying to figure things out on their end, how they wanted to do it, but I think working with (Jets GM) Joe (Douglas) made it easier, just because we come from the same background and understand each other, what's important to us, what's important to them, and again, it took longer, but I really respect Joe and how he goes about it."

Beyond moving on from the annual waiting period in which the Packers have been forced to sell Rodgers on returning, Gutekunst expressed enthusiasm regarding being freed from the burden of carrying Rodgers' massive salary cap hit in 2024. His departure essentially restores the Packers' financial ability to improve their roster instead of concentrating so much of their cap on one player.

"I think we're very excited about that," Gutekunst said. "You always want to have as many avenues to help your football team as you can, and I think over the past three years or so, as we've kind of pushed things down the road to help team chase a championship, at some point you've kinda got to kind of figure that out, and this will help us do that. It's not everything, it's not like we're getting clear of everything, but it'll certainly help us next year. But we're excited to kind of move past this particular piece, and have some assets for next year."

Their split wasn't filled with animosity, in part because both sides felt satisfied by this week's trade. New York landed its quarterback, Rodgers was granted his freedom, and the Packers received a handful of assets that will allow them to improve and hopefully jump-start the Jordan Love era. Gutekunst acknowledged that whenever Rodgers returns to be inducted into the team's hall of fame, he'll be welcomed with open arms. But now, the focus is on 2023, and the first steps taken without Rodgers on the roster.

"We have so much appreciation for the 18 years and what Aaron did for this organization, his commitment to this place and so much success here," Gutekunst said. "There's always a little bittersweetness there, as far as that goes, but at the same time we're really excited for what this team can do moving forward. Excited for Jordan and his growth ... he's very energized and ready to go."

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