Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are 9-3 and coming off a bye as they prepare to host the Bears on Sunday. | Matt Ludtke/AP
“We’ve just got to stop them,” he said in a roundabout way of conceding that Rodgers earned the right to taunt Bears fans.
As Bears fans recoiled at the scene of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers screaming, “I own you,” to the crowd at Soldier Field two months ago, tight end Jimmy Graham just shrugged.
He’s heard worse.
Hey, he’s probably said worse.
“I’ve never been mic’d up as a player, and that’s for good reason,” Graham said Tuesday. “I don’t want anybody to hear the stuff I say out there, for sure. This isn’t golf… It’s a game of whupping the man across from you, simple as that, so there’s not a lot of niceties.
“It’s a part of the game that I love. I’ve got to figure out a way to talk to people once I get out of here, because you can’t be talking to people like that in real life. So I’m going to enjoy each and every snap I get here for the rest of my career.”
The discourse is a bit different if you work in marketing.
Graham most likely has a different perspective than the rest of Chicago when it comes to Rodgers’ taunting. The two became friends when Graham played for the Packers in 2018 and ’19, and Graham is in just his second season with the Bears. He doesn’t have nearly as much emotion invested in the history and reputation of the organization as fans who have been watching and attending Bears games all their lives.
Rodgers crushed the Bears’ hopes — one of his favorite hobbies — with a six-yard touchdown scramble to put the Packers ahead for good with 4:38 left, then turned to the crowd in the southwest corner and let it fly.
“All my [expletive] life, I own you,” he yelled. “I still own you. I still own you.”
It’s a wonder it took him that long to say it.
The Packers switched from Brett Favre, who went 22-10 against the Bears, to Rodgers in 2008. He won his first start in the rivalry 37-3, improved to 21-5 all-time with his 24-14 win in October and is looking to give the Packers their ninth season sweep in his 14 seasons as their starter when the Bears visit Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Given Rodgers’ run against the Bears, Graham didn’t find his taunt offensive or unusual.
“I’ve said that to almost every organization that I’ve scored on,” said Graham, who has a touchdown against every team but the Bengals. “I’ve said it to everybody.”
In a roundabout way, Graham conceded that Rodgers had every right to make that declaration, saying, “We’ve just got to stop them.”
That has been the Bears’ mission statement for decades, but it hasn’t happened much. Rodgers made a casual reference to each new coach hitting that note in his opening press conference, and now he’s looking to sweep another one out the door in Matt Nagy. It’s personal for both sides.
That’s why Rodgers yelling, “I own you,” was so much more flammable than another great like Tom Brady doing it. The Bears have lost 45 of their last 59 games against the Packers dating back to 1992, and the last five defeats came by an average of 10 points.
And this one comes with the added stakes of the Bears believing, however delusional it is, that they can still save their season by pulling a massive upset over their archrival in the national game of the week on Sunday Night Football. At 4-8, they’re five games behind the Packers in the NFC North and two games out of the final NFC playoff spot.
If Rodgers wanted any additional motivation beyond wanting to back up his outburst in the last game, he can once again revel in trying to break the Bears’ spirit.