Packers QB Aaron Rodgers would’ve been happy to see Bears trade LB Roquan Smith

Aaron Rodgers has dominated the Bears throughout his career, so much so that last fall he screamed, “I own you” to fans at Soldier Field and no one could tell him he was wrong.

He is 23-5 against them in his run as the Packers’ starter and looking for his seventh consecutive win when the Bears visit Lambeau Field on Sunday. As he swept them last season, he threw six touchdown passes with no interceptions and even rushed for a touchdown. It looked easy.

But there are still elements of the Bears that Rodgers respects — most prominently, versatile star linebacker Roquan Smith.

“Wouldn’t have minded if he’d gotten traded,” Rodgers cracked Wednesday, referring to Smith’s contract squabble.

Rodgers is a four-time MVP in his 18th season and doesn’t fear much. But Smith concerned him from the jump.

In the 2018 opener, relatively fresh off Smith ending his rookie holdout, he played just eight snaps but had three tackles and sacked backup DeShone Kizer while Rodgers missed time with a knee injury. Rodgers said the Packers “were all pretty happy” that Smith didn’t play much because they knew what a problem he presented.

And since then, he has only ascended.

“He’s a difference maker,” Rodgers said, listing off Smith’s abilities to cover receivers, smash running backs and blitz. “He can do it all. He’s one of the top guys at his position, for sure.

“I like the way he goes about his business. He’s kind of low-key classy… Every now and then you hear a little trash talk, which he’s good at. A lot of respect for Roquan.”

If Smith is still looking for an agent, maybe Rodgers wants the job.

Virtually everything other than Smith has changed for the Bears since their failed upset bid against Rodgers in the 2018 opener.

There’s a new general-manager-coach-quarterback trio trying to knock him and the Packers off the NFC North mountaintop as Ryan Poles, Matt Eberflus and Justin Fields have replaced Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky. Big stars like Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks are long gone. The only remaining players who were on the field for at least 40% of the snaps in that opener are left guard Cody Whitehair and safety Eddie Jackson.

And, once again, the Bears are restarting with a belief that they’ll “take the North and never give it back,” as Poles said in his opening press conference.

And, once again, Rodgers is skeptical.

“All the other teams in the NFC North, it seems like every single year their fan base and their teams feel like, ‘This is our year to win the North,'” he said last week. “Hasn’t really been the case during my time, for the most part.”

Rodgers made that comment a few days before posting a 67.6 passer rating in the Packers’ 23-7 loss to the Vikings.

Nonetheless, the Packers have taken notice of Fields’ potential and Eberflus’ impressive history as Colts defensive coordinator.

While LaFleur said it was difficult to discern much from the Bears’ opener because of the pouring rain, but through the muck, he saw evidence of Eberflus’ influence.

“One thing that shows through is their identity in terms of their style of play, how hard they play, how physical they are,” LaFleur said. “It’s very sound football, and they’ve got all the necessary ingredients in order to have a great defense.”

He also saw something in Fields’ performance despite completing just 8 of 17 passes for 121 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

“He looks more decisive out there, and I think that’s a natural progression,” LaFleur said. “But most importantly, especially for young quarterbacks, it’s just staying resilient, and he definitely did that.”

Potential, resilience, effort — will that be enough for the Bears to topple the team that has towered over them for three decades? It typically hasn’t been. But it seems like they’ve gotten the Packers’ attention.

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