Two years and two weeks ago, Aaron Rodgers suffered an injured throwing shoulder in an upset loss at Tampa Bay.
On Sunday, Rodgers suffered a concussion on his overtime interception in an upset loss at Washington.
Two years ago, Rodgers took only a handful of snaps at the Friday practice, with rookie backup Matt Flynn working overtime in expectation that he’d play that Sunday against Atlanta.
Turns out that Rodgers played — and played well — in a 27-24 home loss to the Falcons. Whether history repeats itself and Rodgers will be under center for his 38th consecutive regular-season start will be dependent wholly on his ability to recover and the findings of an independent, league-authorized neurologist.
While quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and Jay Cutler were sidelined in the week after their concussions, Rodgers might have a chance to be in the lineup on Sunday against Miami. Neither Flynn nor quarterbacks coach Tom Clements said Rodgers showed any obvious aftereffects from the helmet-to-helmet hit either immediately afterward or on Monday morning.
“I was actually kind of surprised when the trainer came up and said that he had been diagnosed with a concussion because I hadn’t noticed anything,” said Clements, who meets with Rodgers after every possession. “Watching the film, the consensus is it happened on the last play. When he comes off the field, we get together, we talk and he was very lucid and I didn’t notice any problem.”
Flynn said he talked to Rodgers on Monday morning and that “everything was kind of normal.”
The NFL’s concussion policy, which went into place on Dec. 2, states: “Once removed for the duration of a practice or game, the player should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptomatic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant.”
Coach Mike McCarthy said it’s “definitely” possible that Rodgers won’t play on Sunday.
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“There’s a protocol, and he’ll go through it just like we’ve always done, and we’ll definitely take the proper time and make sure he’s fully recovered,” he said.
If Rodgers can’t play, Flynn will make his first NFL start. Flynn, who led LSU to the national championship as a senior, was a seventh-round pick by the Packers in 2008. He was a long shot to make the roster but easily beat out hyped second-round pick Brian Brohm to be Rodgers’ backup. He’s continued to grow in the offseason quarterbacks school led by Clements and McCarthy, improving to such an extent that the Packers haven’t drafted a quarterback or signed a veteran the last two years.
“You know, I feel like there is,” Flynn said of the confidence shown by McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson. “I felt like the organization has confidence in me, and I think I've done the best I can to build that up over the years I've been here. And it feels good that they have been behind me like that. We'll see what happens. I'm certainly confident, and I hope my teammates are, as well.”
Clements estimates that Flynn takes about 10 percent of the offense’s reps during a normal week, though with his work in individual drills and running the opponent’s offense against the Packers’ defense, rust shouldn’t be an issue.
“You can get a good read on him,” Clements said. “You’re evaluating him all the time. During our training camp, he’s oftentimes going against the No. 1s. During the regular season with the opponent squad, he’s going against our defense. You can evaluate what kind of performance you might get. Now, obviously, playing in the regular season is different and things go a little faster but we’re confident that Matt will do a good job if needed.”
In his third year in the system, Flynn certainly knows the offense. He’s smart and has improved his physical skill-set during his professional career. A few teams inquired about Flynn’s availability during the offseason, including Cleveland, which was in the market for a starter as it jettisoned former starters Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. While offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said he and McCarthy would “tailor” some things toward Flynn, Flynn and the coaches say the offense should remain relatively unchanged.
“I think he can run the movement the game that we like, the three-step game,” Philbin said. “He’s got a good enough arm on our five-step vertical game; I think he can do some of those things. How much and what detail, that’s some of the things that we’re going to have to work out. I don’t think we have to go to a three-step passing game or that type of thing.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.