Aaron Rodgers: Vikings Star is ‘Most Frustrating Guy I Play Against’

Rodgers on H.Smith

Getty Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers warms up before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 23, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Aaron Rodgers has never shied away from complimenting his NFC North rivals, but few defenders can say they impress—  and frustrate — him quite like Minnesota Vikings veteran safety Harrison Smith.

Rodgers broached the subject of Smith while discussing eye discipline for quarterbacks during his weekly Tuesday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. The Vikings star had been getting some attention for his disguises against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, which comes as no surprise to the Green Bay Packers star quarterback after 16 career matchups.

“He’s the most frustrating guy I play against with his disguises,” Rodgers said, “because he does so many different things from the line of scrimmage — blitz, play the curl flat in a two-invert, run back and play quarter safety, run back and play the half, run back and play the middle-field third. It’s a little maddening sometimes with what they do.”

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Rodgers Explains What Makes Smith a ‘Playmaker’

Smith has been an established figurehead in the Vikings defense since coming into the league as a first-round rookie in 2012, a year in which he added his name to the relatively small list of players who have picked off one of Rodgers’ passes. His talent hasn’t gone unrecognized, either, with him being selected to each of the past five Pro Bowls and twice earning All-Pro honors.

The details of Smith’s game, however, are what has drawn him praise from around the league.

The entire reason Smith was brought up on Tuesday was that Rodgers’ former teammate, AJ Hawk, had asked about him specifically after watching a video breakdown from retired Indianapolis Colts free safety Darius Butler. He took an example of Smith from Monday’s game against the Bears where he moved multiple times after initially lining up for a blitz on the edge, using it to gain leverage for a pass breakup against Allen Robinson.

Laughing in appreciation, Butler also deemed Smith “the best disguising safety since (Troy) Polamalu” was playing in Pittsburgh.

“We always talk about playmakers and what makes a playmaker, and there’s an adage about just being around the football that I don’t think gets appreciated enough,” Rodgers explained Tuesday. “There’s guys who are great players, but they might not always make a lot of plays. And then there are guys who might not get the same type of respect, but they’re always around the ball. I mean, the ball, like, finds them. Tipped passes, fumbles, around the football raking at the ball, forcing fumbles, and that’s the type of guy he is. And I’ve always said, I’m a little biased because I play against him twice a year, but I think he’s one of the top guys in the league. He might not get the recognition, but he’s really tough to play against.”

Mutual Respect Between Rodgers & Smith

Based on the way Smith has talked in the past, there is mutual respect between him and Rodgers. While he has earned his fair share of impact plays against Rodgers, including when he teamed up with Tom Johnson for a third-down sack in 2016, but the veteran safety has also come to understand what makes facing him so difficult after their many twice-a-year matchups.

Here’s how he described Rodgers when asked earlier this year about what his advice would be for young Vikings defenders facing off against the two-time MVP for the first time:

“Every play seems to last a little longer when you play Aaron Rodgers and the Packers,” Smith said in September ahead of their Week 1 meeting. “Everybody has an internal clock to some degree of how long a play is and normally it lasts a little longer, so you might get a little more fatigued. You can’t relax when you think a play’s over.”

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