By Jason Wilde Special to Published May 23, 2008 at 5:29 AM
While how he plays on the field when the games are for real will ultimately decide whether he succeeds or fails -- and rightfully so -- new Packers starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers is doing everything right as he embraces his new role as the leader of the Pack.

Well, almost everything. It's the hair, kid. Something's got to be done about the hair.

Sporting a mullet 'do that's a definite hairstyle don't, Rodgers, who grows training-camp facial hair to entertain himself, looks like a cross between a washed-up '80s metal rocker and a MacGyver. He's getting some intense, high-powered pressure to go back to the clean-cut he came to Green Bay with as the Packers' first-round pick in 2005, but he's yet to decide if the long-haired look will stay or go.

"It might. I'm not sure yet," Rodgers said. "Mom is really pulling for a haircut and we'll see."

Asked if he's taking grooming tips from his right tackle/friend/golfing buddy Mark Tauscher, Rodgers replied, "Nah, I don't want to look like Tausch. At least not with my shirt off."

But with that hairy exception, Rodgers is making all the right moves as he moves out of the large shadow cast by his predecessor, Brett Favre. For instance, he spent Wednesday night doing what he's been doing for the past several weeks: Hosting an "open-invitation" get-together for his teammates at his house.

"I would invite you guys but you're not on the team," he told reporters with a smirk.

Whereas Favre wasn't much for such things -- he preferred dressing in a separate locker room, hunting and golfing with a few close friends on the team and leading by example -- Rodgers knows it's "part of the gig" as the team's new leader. And he's proud of how his invitations have been received.

"We've had at least about 30 guys each week," Rodgers said, adding that he encourages his teammates to bring their wives and girlfriends.

While Rodgers is aware that succeeding as Favre's successor will take more than just good party planning -- "The bottom line is, they're going to be confident in Aaron not because he had them over to his house for a couple dinners, but because they know he can perform," quarterbacks coach Tom Clements said -- he's off to a good start.

After one week of the club's organized team activity practices -- voluntary but strongly encouraged workouts that saw 83 of the 87 signed players on the roster attend -- Rodgers is saying and doing all the right things.

Earlier this week, Rodgers held court in front of his locker -- as opposed to at the podium in the media auditorium, where Favre spoke once a week -- for more than 35 minutes. While it was a group session, Rodgers answered a number of questions we asked for this Milwaukee Talks. Enjoy. So, what's it like to be out there as the lead dog?

Aaron Rodgers: It feels great. I've taken the No. 1 reps in practice throughout the least three years, but to know that I'm the guy going into the season is pretty exciting because I think the guys are starting to rally around me leadership style and the way I do things. I've been waiting for this experience and this opportunity my whole life, so it's pretty exciting. It's exciting being the guy, and with that comes a lot of responsibility, not only with you guys in the media but with my teammates and taking care of business on and off the field. I need to be probably more aware of what I do off the field now, knowing that the spotlight is always on me.

OMC: Does it help your comfort level that you know the offense so well after three years sitting behind Favre?

AR: I think that's probably one of the most underestimated parts of my game is that I have spent the last three off-seasons exclusively here and I've put in a lot of time and a lot of hard work into figuring out this offense. I think I'll be ready to go once we can finally lace 'em up for real.

OMC: How do you feel about the media attention you're going to get this season?

AR: I think I've handled you guys pretty well the last few years. I know the pressure I'm under. I know who I'm following. I know that it's a tough situation and a lot of people are expecting me to fail outside of this locker room, but I'm just trying to get the guys we've got here now to believe in me. I think the coaching staff and the guys upstairs believe in me. I've just got to play well and everything will take care of itself.

Every move I make is going to be scrutinized. I think I'm ready for that, but I know it's not going to be easy. You guys (reporters) bring it as hard as you want and I'm just going to try and be honest with you guys every time I get a chance to talk to you.

OMC: You said most people expect you to fail. Do you really think that?

AR: Maybe not expecting me, but maybe wanting me to fail. And I'm OK with that. I don't mind that. I care about the 53 on the opening day roster and that they believe in me and the coaching staff and the personnel staff. It's been real positive so far. I just need to play well and then those guys will follow me. I'm not playing for anybody but the guys in this locker room. But, yeah, I want to be liked, obviously. Everybody does.

I know it's going to be on me all season. I know the comparisons, probably my entire career, as long as I'm a Packers and as long as I play in the NFL, that'll always be. My connection will be the guy who followed Brett Favre. If I take care of business the way I think I should and play the way I want to play, then everything will take care of itself.

OMC: The one thing you seem to bristle at is when people use the phrase "injury-prone." You have had some bad luck with injuries -- breaking your foot against New England in '06, and pulling your hamstring in practice after the Dallas game last year.

AR: That does kind of bother me, to hear that. To me, when somebody says, "injury-prone," it has a negative connotation to it. And a lot of times, people can say you're soft because of it. I had a broken foot and a torn hamstring.

You're following somebody who had 250-plus straight starts. Obviously, that's the standard. If it's an injury because of something you haven't done in the off-season, some work you haven't done on your body, that's one thing. But the work I've put in, the injuries I've had have been kind of fluke injuries. I'd say I'm one of the most flexible guys on the team, (so) for me to pull a hamstring on the last play of (a) practice is pretty ridiculous. I broke my foot, finished the game.

Obviously I want to play all 16 games, but things happen out there that you can't control. The biggest problem I have is, you call me injury-prone and I finish a game on a broken foot. I mean, how do you respond to that?

OMC: How have fans reacted to you when you've been out and about?

AR: To be honest, everybody in public has been very encouraging and nice except for one guy who was heckling me at the softball game. But it's been great. I enjoy living in Green Bay and playing for this team. Everybody loves Brett, they always will, but hopefully if we can string together some wins this year, and maybe I'll be a close second -- or third behind Bart Starr -- on their favorite quarterback list.

OMC: Have you talked to Favre?

AR: No, I haven't talked to him. We've traded messages but we haven't talked in person.

OMC: You're playing in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe in July, as is Favre. This will be the fourth time you've been in it. Are you looking forward to that?

AR: That's the best week of the summer. You get to play five rounds, at an elite golf course, and you get to hang out with a lot of buddies. For me, I'm like a D-list celebrity in that group, with all the big names there, and I just kind of hide. I'm sitting at the blackjack table, and people ask me, 'Hey, what are you doing here?' 'Oh, I'm just here for the tournament.' 'Oh yeah? You're watching the tournament?' 'Yeah, I'm watching the tournament.' Most people don't even know who I am, so it's a nice escape, but it's also close to (my hometown of) Chico, (Calif.), too, so a lot of my friends go up and we make a whole weekend out of it.

OMC: How do you feel about the team retiring Favre's No. 4 on opening night, when you'll be making your first NFL start?

AR: I mean, that's going to be an interesting night as well, with retiring Brett's number, my first start, Monday Night Football. It's going to be a good first stage. It'll be a great night for all of us.

I've said this many times in interviews, but I learned my first year that the only things I should worry about are things I can control. And I couldn't control us being on national TV in Game 1 on Monday Night Football and I had no say in them retiring Brett's number. So I'm just going to roll with it."

OMC: What do you make of Favre's unretirement talk?

AR: You know what? I really don't get into that too much. I do hear about it second-hand. But there's not much you can say about that. He obviously is retired, he probably still thinks he can play, but as a football team, I think we're moving on. We've got myself, we drafted two young guys and that's kind of the direction we're going in.

OMC: Have you helped (rookie quarterbacks Brian) Brohm and (Matt) Flynn with their transition to the NFL?

AR: These guys are both very bright. They've had good college careers. I'm just going to be open to them. I think it's a misconception to think that I need to be standoff-ish with them or not help them out because helping those guys out is going to make us a better football team. Any questions they've got, I'm going to be there for them if they need me.

I'm going to help them out as much as they want. If they want to come to me with questions, I'll be more than happy to help them out. I know what it was like to be a rookie, and I'm sure their heads are swimming a little bit with the stuff we put in. So as much help as they want, they've got my phone number, they know where I live.

OMC: How different is that approach that you're taking with them from the approach Brett Favre took with you?

AR: It was a different situation. He was 36, I was 21, we were 15 years apart. I'm 24, these guys are 23 and 22. So as far as age goes, there's a little more of a connection there. But I'm just doing things the way I've always done them. I've always been open, I think I've always been a guy who wants to be involved not only in working together but be involved in the lives of these guys. That's why I have guys over once a week, just because I want us to be a connected team -- on and off the field. Just to have a place where we can come and eat food and not talk about football -- talk about life, what's going on in each other's lives and get to know each other better off the field. So that's what I've been doing this off-season.

OMC: But did you learn from how you were treated as a rookie by Favre that you weren't going to treat these guys the same way? He made it very clear it wasn't his job to mentor you.

AR: I just know as a rookie it's tough coming in, because you don't really know what you're doing and you're trying to figure things out, and I just want to be as big a help to them as I can possibly be.

OMC: Does having a guy like Brohm, who played for four years in college and is pretty polished, here -- does that add to the pressure that you're facing?

AR: I don't think so. Mike (McCarthy) said I'm the guy, Ted (Thompson) said I'm the guy. Donald (Driver) thinks I'm the guy. (Driver, walking past Rodgers' locker, interjects: "You da guy!"). No, I'm not worried about that. Brian, he looks like he's a good player, he's smart, he's picking up the offense pretty well. But it's really in my hands. If I play well, everything's going to take care of itself. And if I don't, then either Brian or somebody else will be replacing me, and I'll know before anybody else.

OMC: The way you played in the Dallas game after Favre got hurt was encouraging to many people. What about to you? Did it help your confidence?

AR: Yeah, it did. It's just one game, though. I want to put together a whole season of games in that fashion. I think it was probably more encouraging for the fans, especially those who hadn't been very confident in my abilities, but also for my teammates I think. Although they saw the way I practice every day, being able to see me play on a national scene like that in a big game I think just encouraged them that in the post-Favre era kind of what they're going to be getting with me as a quarterback.

Jason Wilde Special to

Jason Wilde, a Milwaukee native who graduated from Greendale Martin Luther High School and the University of Wisconsin, is a two-time Associated Press Sports Editors award winner and a Wisconsin Newspaper Association award winner.

His daily coverage can be found on the State Journal's Web site and through his Packers blog on