Yes, Aaron Rodgers will play in his first NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field next week.
No, it will not be the first time Rodgers is part of an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau.
He was the quarterback-in-waiting the last time the Packers hosted the game, watching from the sideline as Brett Favre played his final game for the franchise and Eli Manning and the Giants topped Green Bay in overtime amid frigid conditions in 2008. After helping the Packers beat the Rams, 32-18, in Saturday’s divisional round, Rodgers provided some memories from that game.
"I remember what it felt like, especially after we watched the Giants beat Dallas," Rodgers said of the divisional-round game after the 2007 season that set up that meeting. "Us and Dallas were kind of, we thought, the two best teams in the NFC that year. We felt really good about hosting it and our chances."
The game was played in arctic conditions.
That was a really really cold game, for sure," Rodgers said Saturday.
The Giants won in overtime and then won the Super Bowl after Corey Webster intercepted Favre and Lawrence Tynes kicked a 47-yard field goal. They went on to beat the unbeaten Patriots in Super Bowl XLII two weeks later.
Rodgers finally will get to participate in the game rather than shiver on the sideline. And he’ll do so against either Tom Brady or Drew Brees, which will make the matchup saturated with storylines, even if Rodgers didn’t want to think about those just yet.
"I’m still reveling in this one," he said on Saturday.
He made it clear it is something he has been wanting for much of his storied career. "It means a lot," he said. "I’ve had a lot of starts in this league without being able to be a part of hosting an NFC championship."
That he’ll get to do so with some number of fans in the stadium will add to the experience. In a season in which COVID-19 has eliminated spectators from so many games and helped nullify any home-field advantage teams may have, Rodgers said having even the 9,000 in attendance on Saturday was a big boost.
"Talk about just pure joy running out of that tunnel," he said of the ovation. "It felt like 50,000 when we ran out of the tunnel. It was such a special moment. You forget how much you truly, truly miss having a crowd there . . . It’s hard to put into words how special that feeling is, but you can feel it, it’s so palpable."
It will be palpable next week, too, although the exact number of fans who will be allowed into Lambeau isn’t yet determined.
Of course, Lambeau has other home-field advantages besides the crowds. Saturday’s game was played in almost balmy temperatures in the 30s. Although there were some flurries throughout the afternoon, it was far from a Frozen Tundra.
"Hopefully it’s a little colder than it was tonight," Rodgers said.
As cold as the last NFC Championship Game there?