In the regular-season opener against the Seahawks, Aaron Rodgers gave Richard Sherman the cold shoulder.
His passing shoulder that is, as the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers did not even throw in the direction of the Seahawks' All-Pro cornerback. Thirty-three passes, and not one to Sherman's side of the field in the Seahawks' 36-16 victory at CenturyLink Field on Sept. 4.
But this week, Sherman and Rodgers have been involved in a long-distance shoulder-bump as their respective teams prepare for Sunday's rematch in the NFC Championship game.
"You have to be aware of him," Rodgers said when asked about Sherman during a radio interview. "Not scared of him, but you have a ton of respect for him."
Wednesday, Sherman offered a right-back-at-ya response when asked about what it takes to earn his respect and how much respect he has for the Packers QB.
"I think consistency. Playing at a high level in big games," Sherman said. "And he's done all that. He's been playing at a high level for a long time. He's played big in all the big games. He played injured last week and had a phenomenal game. And I think with all those things you garner the respect of a lot of people."
That, in 60 words or less, is a pretty good description of Rodgers – and also a pretty good explanation of why he has won Sherman's respect.
Rodgers, the favorite to be named league MVP, passed for 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns during the regular season – the fifth time in the past seven seasons he has had at least 4,000 passing yards and fourth time during that span that he had at least 30 TD passes.
There's the consistency Sherman spoke of.
In Sunday's 26-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys that lifted the Packers into the NFC title game, Rodgers completed 24 of 35 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns – despite playing with an injured calf that limited his mobility and left him unable to bolt from the pocket and run for first downs.
There's the playing at a high level in big games that Sherman mentioned.
But Sherman is no slouch either when it comes to meeting his own criteria for respect. Since stepping into the lineup midway through his rookie season in 2011, no player in the league comes close to Sherman's 25 interceptions – including one in Saturday night's 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers that allowed the Seahawks to host the conference title game for the second consecutive season. And then was his tipped pass in the end zone in last season's NFC Championship game – the Immaculate Deflection, as it was dubbed – that was intercepted by linebacker Malcolm Smith and iced the Seahawks' 23-17 victory that sent them to the Super Bowl.
Consistency? Check. Playing at a high level in big games? Check.
"Look at the numbers, they don't lie," Rodgers said. "Not a lot of guys catch passes on his side. And for the amount of times he's targeted, his interception totals are very impressive. You just have to play your game, but if he's locking his guy down, he's probably not going to get a lot of passes thrown his way."
So here they are, this mutual-respect duo, preparing to square off again on Sunday.
Both are from California – Sherman from Compton in the Los Angeles area; Rodgers from Chico in Northern California. Each went to a Pac-10 school – Sherman at Stanford; Rodgers at Cal. Each has won a Super Bowl – Sherman last February; Rodgers after the 2010 season. Sherman has five interceptions this season, and Rodgers has thrown only five interceptions. Sherman led the league with eight interceptions last season, while Rodgers threw only six picks. In 2012, Sherman also had eight interceptions to tie for second in the league, while Rodgers was second in the league with 39 TD passes.
But don't expect Rodgers to ignore Sherman's side of the field on Sunday. Not with so much on the line in the Packers' second trip to CenturyLink field this season and third in the past three seasons.
"You play it the way you always play it," Rodgers said. "You look for matchups and you go through your progressions and you throw it to the guy who's most open."
And with Sherman on the left side for the Seahawks – and the Packers' right side – his man is rarely the guy who's most open.
"He's a great player," Rodgers said. "You watch the film, and it wasn't like the guy he was guarding was open. Not surprising. That's why he gets paid the way he does and he has the reputation that he does. He's a great coverage guy. He's very intelligent. He's got great ball skills. He's got very good timing with his technique, and he knows how to cover people."
Just as the Seahawks know they can't discount what Rodgers is capable of doing after the way he played against the Cowboys, and despite the way he's played in his past two trips to Seattle – as the Seahawks sacked him eight times in the Week 3 "Monday Night Football" game in 2012 that they won 14-12; and sacked him three more times in the opener this season.
"He's an extraordinarily creative player," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He comes up with great things at great times. We have to play him like he's going to get out, so we can't change that until we see something different."
And Sherman and the Seahawks also can't count on Rodgers shying away from one side of the field this time, which would be a change from the way he attacked them in the opener.