The fog has cleared in Aaron Rodgers’ head, and with it, any doubt about who will be the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback on Sunday has cleared up, too.
After being held out of Wednesday’s practice following Sunday’s concussion at Washington, Rodgers took almost all of the first-team snaps during the one hour of practice that was open to reporters on Thursday. He seemed on top of the game plan, had no problem with any of the physical aspects of the job and seemed loose and in typically good humor.
While coach Mike McCarthy stopped short of saying that Rodgers would be the starter for Sunday’s home game against the Miami Dolphins because of the possibility that Rodgers could have a setback in the next couple days, Rodgers said there’s no reason to believe he’ll be a game-time decision.
“I’ve gone through the process that the NFL requires,” Rodgers said. “I’ve been cleared by our doctors by an outside source. I think it’s just a matter of how I feel tomorrow.”
While the coaching staff has said that Rodgers sustained the concussion on the helmet-to-helmet hit from Jeremy Jarmon on his ill-fated overtime interception, Rodgers indicated that the injury was more of a cumulative effect from a game’s worth of hits.
“The final hit definitely increased what I was feeling, but having never had a concussion before, it was definitely a learning process to understand how my body feels,” he said. “Because, obviously, I’ve been dinged in the head a number of times, everything from in high school seeing the stars and stuff to the different shots you take along the way. I think it was just a great learning process to understand how my body reacts to different situations, and by the time the last hit was made, it was a situation where if they had missed the field goal or turned the ball over, definitely Matt (Flynn) was going to go into the game.”
Rodgers couldn’t pinpoint when the injury took place. It wasn’t obvious to him, and he said he’s had “better things” to do this week than try to figure it out. With a smile, he said it was not on his third-and-goal quarterback sneak that was stuffed in the second quarter. At that point, Rodgers was 13-of-16 for 149 yards. From that point on, he was 14-of-30 for 144 yards. However, that discrepancy is amplified by each of the Packers’ six official dropped passes.
“I wasn’t feeling completely normal up until that point (the Jarmon hit), but I don’t think I was in a state where I was harming my team being on the field,” Rodgers said.
Perhaps Rodgers was simply being evasive, but he had trouble answering a question about his scramble with the clock running out in the fourth quarter with the Packers trying to drive into range for a winning field goal. Three times, Rodgers had to be told the specific circumstances of the play in question, which began with 41 seconds remaining from the Packers’ 30-yard line. Rodgers scrambled around right end for a gain of 14 yards on second-and-1. Rodgers dove head-first at the end of the play rather than run out of bounds. By staying in bounds, Rodgers gained a few extra yards but forced the Packers to burn their final timeout. Thus, when Rodgers hit Andrew Quarless for a 21-yard gain to the Redskins’ 35, all the Packers could do was clock the ball and attempt a 53-yard field goal.
“Oh, the scramble,” he said. “Yeah, I mean, that was a reactionary play. I don't think anything going on in my head affected that.”
Rodgers said he didn’t feel well on Monday and Tuesday but began to get back to normal on Wednesday. While Rodgers wasn’t at practice, he was passing the league-mandated physical and mental tests that are part of the NFL’s recently implemented post-concussion protocol.
“(Whether) you’re in a concussed state or not, it’s a difficult test,” he said. “I would challenge all of your guys to take the impact test and see how you do. It’s recalling words and numbers and squiggly lines and stuff. It’s definitely a test to see how your brain is functioning. It’s interesting to see the Monday results compared to the Tuesday results. There’s definitely a jump as I started to feel better on Tuesday into Wednesday.”
Rodgers is the Packers’ new player rep to the union, and concussions have been a hot-button issue. He said he plans on doing more research on the subject to keep the dialogue open between the league and the players.
In a sport played by tough men, there’s a certain pressure to get back on the field when injured. Rodgers probably is more aware of that than most players, considering he’s following in the footstep of the NFL’s all-time ironman, Brett Favre. The NFL’s new post-concussion testing, which requires an independent physician to clear a player to practice and play, takes some of that pressure out of the player’s hands.
“I think early in the week, the thought process is, ‘Well, I’m playing regardless,’” Rodgers said. “But I think as you start to understand the severity of an injury, a head injury is really like no other injury, and I think you really have to go through the process. There’s been a number of guys in the past few years -- and in the news, this has been a big topic between the NFL and its players -- the handling of concussions and the post-concussion syndrome and the different things that players have dealt with down the road.
“So, I think when I started to really look into more information about this, that’s when the severity of this injury hit me. And I realized, ‘You know what, I’d love to be out there on Sunday for my guys, but I have to get cleared. And this has to be a process where I’m completely honest with our medical staff and they’re honest with their assessment of how they feel I’m reacting and improving or not improving.’ Thankfully, I felt better Tuesday, felt better Wednesday, felt good this morning and I’ve been cleared.”
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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.