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An apology to Aaron Rodgers, Packers fans, and Jan Cavanaugh

Green Bay Packers v Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 20: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers scrambles away from the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on December 20, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Jared Wickerham

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers appeared today on The Dan Patrick Show. During the interview, Rodgers addressed the video that appeared over the weekend on WBAY-TV in Green Bay, with Rodgers walking past Packers fan and cancer survivor Jan Cavanaugh as she sought an autograph.

“I’ve met Jan on previous occasions,” Rodgers said. “As the video shows, I didn’t see her. I didn’t sign for her. It turned into something I didn’t really expect.”

Thee now-yanked story shows a terminal at Austin Straubel Airport containing a group of Packers fans, seeing the Packers off to Atlanta on Friday of last week. In the video, Cavanaugh explains that she has a pink hat that she hopes Rodgers will sign it. And the very next image shows Rodgers strolling by with buds in his ears and the “force field” demeanor that we often see from celebrities who are being pursued by paparazzi.

When I saw the video for the first time, I cringed. Many of you did the same. But then I did what we bloggers (or whatever we are) all too often do -- I fired off a rebuke of Rodgers without considering anything else about the other things he has done, both publicly and privately, over the years.

Gregg Doyel of CBS has provided an excellent look at Rodgers’ good deeds, including his work for Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer. You should read Gregg’s article. It’s an eye opener. And I commend Rodgers for his efforts. In many respects, he has shown his appreciation of and concern for the citizens of Green Bay and Wisconsin. If Packers fans hadn’t previously embraced him like they’d embraced Brett Favre, their reaction to the criticism of Rodgers from me and others shows that they now have.

I apologize to Rodgers for painting him with an unjustifiably broad brush based on a very brief slice of his life. It was wrong to jump to conclusions about whether he treats fans properly, and whether he understands the connection between the fans who support him and the money he makes. Though some have argued that true character is revealed in those fleeting moments, the whole truth about a man falls somewhere between his best days and his worst days. For Rodgers, there’s no reason to believe that the truth isn’t a lot closer to the best than the worst.

I apologize to Packers fans for distracting you from the afterglow of a game that has ushered in a new golden age of Green Bay football. With a stirring win over the top-seeded Falcons and a historic postseason contest against the Bears on the horizon, you shouldn’t have had to worry about an opinion that I delivered too quickly, too strongly, and too stubbornly. I allowed emotions based on my own experiences to overcome reason, and I hope in the future to be able to take a step back before sharing the full thrust of my initial reaction on these pages, especially when the reaction is fueled by emotion based on my own experiences.

I also apologize to Jan Cavanaugh. As Armando Salguero explained it earlier today during my weekly visit with WFTL in South Florida, I tried to rescue a damsel in distress before determining whether she wanted to be rescued. (Actually, that’s sort of how I met my wife.) I should have realized that this would bring attention she doesn’t want or need, and I would have if I hadn’t shared the full thrust of my initial reaction without thinking it through or looking into the good things Rodgers has done.

No one with PFT or NBC has asked me to apologize, and no one has forced me to apologize. (We continue to have full editorial control over the content of the site, and NBC has honored that commitment since day one of our partnership.) I’ve had two nights to sleep on it and plenty of other time to think about it. Once my anger at being wrongfully accused of running a payola scheme subsided and my Italian nature to never give in wore off, I realized that I felt bad. And I realized that I’d only feel better if I apologized.

Hopefully, we’ve all learned something from this experience. I know I have. And rather than listing, as I ordinarily would, all the other lessons that I think everyone else involved in this situation should learn, I’ll shut up and move on and let folks come to their own conclusions about what they may do differently when confronted with similar circumstances in the future.