Aaron Rodgers has heard former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark tell the same old story over and over about their interaction in Super Bowl XLV nearly a decade ago, but the veteran Green Bay Packers quarterback says he never meant to start a grudge.
Clark’s frustration originates from Rodgers’ 24-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings that pushed the Packers ahead 21-3 over the Steelers in the first half of their eventual Super Bowl victory. The retired Pro Bowler said he had diagnosed that particular Packers play during film study for the game and sprinted to Jennings once the ball was snapped, determined to make an interception, but Rodgers threaded the needle and slipped it just over his fingers to Jennings.
The throw itself wasn’t the problem for Clark, though. He said that came later on the Packers’ next offensive series when Rodgers called out to him during a timeout and held up his fingers, pinched close but not touching, to taunt him about falling short on their last touchdown drive.
“I wasn’t trying to be a d*** about the fact that it was close, but I don’t know,” Rodgers said when asked about the validity of Clark’s story during Tuesday’s appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. “I thought it was like a little competitive banter. I didn’t realize that stuck with him, this grudge from February 6th, 2011 … I would say to Ryan, ‘Hey buddy, let it go.'”
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Clark Remembers Being ‘So Mad’ After Rodgers’ Banter
Fans of McAfee’s show were treated to both sides of the story Tuesday with Clark appearing as a guest earlier in the day and getting asked to talk about how things went down from his perspective — something Clark has never been shy about doing.
“I planned this interception,” Clark told McAfee on Tuesday. “Every time Greg Jennings is at the No. 3 (spot) in two-safety defenses, they ran a seam. … Every time they did this, they threw the ball to Greg Jennings, bro. They threw a seam. So, I had told my kids we were going to Disney World. I was going to pick this ball off and I was going to score a touchdown.”
Obviously, things didn’t happen how Clark envisioned they would, but the former safety said he didn’t let his near-miss hang over him moving forward in the game.
“All is good, it’s Aaron Rodgers. I ain’t really tripping,” Clark said. “Next series, we’re doing kind of well and somebody, they called a timeout. Bro looks at me and goes, ‘Hey, 2-5.’ First off, you’ve been studying for this game for two weeks and I’ve been in the league at this point for 10 years. You know my frickin’ name. You don’t have to call me by my number. So then he goes, ‘2-5’ and (Clark holds up his pinched fingers, as Rodgers did).
I was so mad because now I’ve got to work for ESPN to get free tickets to Disney World, where I was going to have my own parade.”
Rodgers (Mostly) Confirms Clark’s Story
Clearly, the two men disagree about how Rodgers’ callout should have been received. Clark has brought the subject up a number of times, most notably when he told the story on ESPN six years after the game was played. He also decried Rodgers as a “miserable mentor” in the spring when the Packers drafted first-round quarterback Jordan Love.
But as far as the details go, the only other thing Rodgers seemed to contest about Clark’s version is how fast the safety was moving during the touchdown play.
“They were playing Cover 4,” Rodgers told from his view. “I don’t think he sprinted at the snap. We ran All-Go Special and he kind of slowly made his way over from the back safety cluing on No. 3, who was going vertical. Kind of snuck it in there. It was really good coverage.”