GREEN BAY – When the Green Bay Packers return to the practice field on Thursday after the Christmas holiday, they will know whether quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be their starter for Sunday’s winner-take-call NFC North showdown with the Chicago Bears.
But there was no decision reached Tuesday, despite Rodgers having had his left collarbone scanned “within the last 24 hours” and the team hoping to make the call early in the week.
“We’ve done a scan and we’re going through the process of evaluation. Probably not what everybody wants to hear, but I can say definitively [on] Thursday – one way or another – it will be a definitive conclusion to this week’s unknown,” Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPN Wisconsin. “We wanted to give everybody a rest for Christmas, be able to enjoy their Christmas.”
Rodgers suffered a fractured left collarbone Nov. 4 against the Bears and has missed the last seven games. He started practicing on a limited basis four weeks ago, has been pain-free for about two weeks and had hoped to get medical clearance for each of the past two games. The Packers are 2-5-1 since Rodgers’ injury, which occurred on the opening series of their 27-20 loss to the Bears.
If Rodgers does not get the go-ahead, Matt Flynn would start his fifth straight game. Since relieving Scott Tolzien and rallying the Packers to a 26-26 tie against Minnesota on Nov. 24, Flynn has led the Packers to four fourth-quarter comebacks, including in last Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh. The Packers are 2-2 with Flynn as the starter.
The Packers did not practice Tuesday – they had a walkthrough session before having Christmas Eve and all of Christmas Day off – but the players are clearly hopeful of Rodgers’ return.
“Gut feeling? That Christmas is tomorrow,” veteran wide receiver James Jones said. “I don’t know. I think we will get some good news.”
Rodgers wouldn’t reveal the results of his scan but certainly seemed upbeat during the 45-minute show.
"I'm feeling better and not thinking about my injury at all," Rodgers said. "I think ultimately it comes down to, it's big on the medical side. Is the bone healed or is there a large risk of going back out there that's too great, that the organization would not want to put me out there?
"Obviously I want to be out there. I know what's at stake. This is an important week for us. We're somehow back in this position to be able to get into the playoffs. What a better way to do that than against the Chicago Bears?"
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday that the team wanted to make a decision on Rodgers’ status early in the week and let his teammates know the plan then. Until now, the Packers have not announced their decisions on Rodgers’ status each week until Friday, when he has been ruled out.
“I think No. 1 for the football team and also Aaron Rodgers, I think it’s important for us to make a quicker decision,” McCarthy said. “This has obviously been frustrating and stressful for Aaron, rightfully so, but also our football [team]. I want them to know who the quarterback’s going to be.
“This is something I think clearly after seeing Aaron practice for two weeks, this is something [general manager] Ted Thompson and I need to sit down and we need to assess all the information and to decide if it’s time for him to play. Aaron wants to play, has wanted to play for the last couple of weeks. He fully accepts [and] understands everything going on with his injury, so this is really a decision for Ted Thompson and I, representing the organization. That’s how it works.”
Team physician Patrick McKenzie happened to be in the Packers’ locker room during the media availability session on Tuesday. (Interviews with McKenzie are strictly forbidden by club rules.)
"I thought as of last week there'd be a lot more healing that would have gone on," Rodgers said. "Learned a lot about the clavicle and the kind of blood flow or lack of that it gets as being a reason it didn't look as good as we all wanted it last week."
If Rodgers does play, he said he is not concerned about being rusty despite having missed the past seven games. The longest layoff Rodgers has ever had as a starter came at the end of the 2011 season, when he sat out the meaningless regular-season finale and the No. 1-seeded Packers had a bye week before losing in the NFC Divisional Playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl-champion New York Giants at Lambeau Field.
“I’ve been focusing on my conditioning a lot, doing some extra conditioning, making sure my wind is good. But it’s about taking the reps in practice and finding that timing and rhythm,” said Rodgers, who before the collarbone injury had missed only one game due to injury since becoming the starter in 2008 – a concussion in 2010. “I’ve played a lot of football, so I don’t think there’s a major hurdle to get over and to get back and be effective. To me it’s always come down to preparation. Do I feel confident in the plan, confident in my ability to execute the plan? If I do, then I expect to play well on Sunday.”
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