When Aaron Rodgers needs to rekindle the feelings that drove his rise from a junior college quarterback to Super Bowl MVP, he doesn't have to look too far.
Rodgers held on to the many rejection letters he received from marquee college programs as he was coming out of high school. Even today, he leaves a few of them sitting out at his house.
"I chose the couple that I thought were most demeaning to display in a space in my house that really nobody is able to see but myself," Rodgers said. "It's something that I think is important to keep fresh on your mind. Maybe not every day, but once a week your eyes might pan across it and you have a little laugh about the journey you've been on — at the same time, remembering that there still are people out there that you can prove something to."
Good luck finding those doubters now.
Rodgers is the 2011 Male Athlete of the Year, chosen by members of The Associated Press, after he turned in an MVP performance in the Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in February and then went on to lead his team on a long unbeaten run this season.
Rodgers received 112 votes out of the 212 ballots submitted from U.S. news organizations that make up the AP's membership. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander finished second with 50 votes, followed by tennis standout Novak Djokovic (21), Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton (6) and NASCAR champion Tony Stewart (5).
Rodgers is the third NFL quarterback to win the award in the last five years, following the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees in 2010 and the New England Patriots' Tom Brady in 2007.
NFL CHANGING CONCUSSION GUIDELINES: The NFL is changing how it handles concussion examinations after Browns quarterback Colt McCoy went back into a Dec. 8 game without being tested for one.
A certified athletic trainer, paid by the league, will be at each game to monitor play and provide medical staffs with "any relevant information that may assist them in determining the most appropriate evaluation and treatment," the NFL said in a statement Wednesday. The trainers will not diagnose nor prescribe treatment and can't order that players be removed from a game.
Their presence is intended to assist team medical staffs in addressing a variety of injuries.
The trainer's "role will be to provide information to team medical staffs that might have been missed due to a lack of a clear view of the play or because they were attending to other players or duties," the statement said.
The trainer will be in a booth upstairs with access to video replay and direct communication to the medical staffs of both teams.
"In most cases, the athletic trainer will be affiliated with a major college program in the area or will have previously been affiliated with an NFL club," the league said.
The league and each team are in the process of selecting the trainers.
Also, team medical staffs will be permitted to use cell phones during games to gather information relating to the care of an injured player. This is not limited to concussions.
McCoy was hurt on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison late in Pittsburgh's win. He returned to the game after missing just two plays without being examined for a concussion.
The quarterback wasn't tested until after the game, when he was diagnosed with a concussion. McCoy is still experiencing symptoms and hasn't played since.
The Browns said McCoy wasn't showing symptoms of a concussion during the game, so they didn't test him. Team doctors were treating other players and didn't see the impact from Harrison's vicious hit. Harrison later was suspended for one game for being a repeat offender and returned to practice Wednesday after missing a loss at San Francisco.
The NFL said the Browns would not be disciplined for their handling of the situation.
"Clubs also were reminded of the importance of team coaching and medical staffs continuing to work together to ensure that full information is available at all times to medical staffs," the NFL's statement said, "that players do not take steps to avoid evaluations, and that concussions continue to be managed in a conservative and medically appropriate way."
MCCOWN TO START SUNDAY FOR BEARS: Quarterback Josh McCown will start an NFL game for the first time in four years when he lines up behind center for the Bears at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. The Bears said Wednesday that McCown will replace the struggling Caleb Hanie.
McCown hasn't started a game since Dec. 23, 2007, for Oakland against Jacksonville. He was completely out of the NFL last season.
"Other than just the excitement and the joy of being between the stripes with the lights on again, I think that first snap obviously will be exciting," McCown said.
The excitement for McCown, who threw two passes last week in a late relief role and eight passes total since his last start, will be tempered by the fact that the Bears' playoff hopes will end if they lose.
"So I don't want to get too excited and too amped up because for me, absolutely it's a cool story and cool moment, but at the same time, I'm a competitor," he said. "I want to win the game. I want to do right by the coaches and by the other 52 guys in the locker room."
About five weeks ago, McCown was more concerned with coaching high school football than starting an NFL game.
CARDINALS PUT LB ON INJURED RESERVE: The Arizona Cardinals have placed outside linebacker Joey Porter on injured reserve, ending the season for the four-time Pro Bowler. Porter has missed eight games this season with a knee injury. The 34-year-old former Pittsburgh Steelers star is two sacks shy of 100 for his career. He agreed to take a pay cut, from $5.75 million to $1.75 million to return to the Cardinals for a second season this year.
NFLPA DIRECTOR GETS $1 MILLION BONUS: A person with knowledge of the payout says the NFL Players Association has given executive director DeMaurice Smith a $1 million bonus. The bonus was paid solely at the discretion of the union, the person says on condition of anonymity because the payment was not announced.
Smith was hired in March 2009 to replace the late Gene Upshaw.
Texans (10-4) at Colts (1-13)
Today, 6:20 p.m.
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