He insists he never wanted to move on but the message from the Northern Irishman meant he had to start seriously considering he may not have a future at Anfield.
Downing was left confused and surprised by his continued absence from the first team - hinting that the decision had not been made on football grounds.
"I wanted to stay, I didn't want to leave but it was out of my hands," said the 28-year-old.
"I was out of the team and frustrated and I said if something big came up I'd look at it.
"We had that conversation and, to be honest, I thought I was on my way in January.
"I was a little bit surprised when he (Rodgers) said I could go. "He came in and was pleased with me at the start and then all of a sudden things changed quickly and I could go.
"I don't know who makes that decision but one minute I was being told I was doing well and the next I was told I could go. It was a bit confusing.
"But it is a kick up the backside. I then had nothing to lose as I was going.
"If it was a gee-up for me then maybe it's worked because the performances are coming now."