Rodgers: 'Other 52 Guys' Must Pick Up Slack
Rodgers (Brad Penner - USA Today Sports)
Rodgers (Brad Penner - USA Today Sports)
The Associated Press
Posted Nov 20, 2013

With Aaron Rodgers' return from a broken collarbone not imminent, it will be up to the rest of the team to save a once-promising season.

Aaron Rodgers is still out, opponents are stacking the box to stop the run, and the third-place Green Bay Packers are trying to reverse a three-game losing streak.

Other players in Green Bay are going to have step up — and soon — before the predicament gets worse in the NFC North.

For now, Rodgers can only watch as an unofficial but well-paid quarterbacks coach.

"This is why football is a team sport, it's about the other 52 guys on the active roster and guys picking up the slack," Rodgers said Wednesday. "It's tough to be out there, obviously, because I love playing. I'm just trying to help out as much as I can."

Coach Mike McCarthy has already made Scott Tolzien the starter for Sunday's game against the Vikings. There's at least slightly more clarity in determining when Rodgers, the 2011 NFL MVP, might be ready to get back on the field after breaking his left collarbone Nov. 4 against the Bears.

McCarthy said Tuesday it remains a medical decision when Rodgers will return. Rodgers is sticking to what he divulged Tuesday on his radio show, that he's going to need to practice two days before a game in order to play. That means if Rodgers is practicing Friday, there's a chance he could play against the Vikings.

"Obviously, limited to zero participation today depending on what you consider coaching tips, so just waiting the waiting game and see what happens," Rodgers said at his first meeting with reporters at his locker since the injury.

The trickle-down effect on the rest of the offense was evident in last week's 27-13 loss to the Giants. Running back Eddie Lacy was held to 14 carries and 27 yards, though he did run for a 1-yard score. The running game overall was held to a season-low 55 yards on 20 carries.

Safeties are creeping closer to the line of scrimmage. Defenses are showing more eight-man fronts. More and more, there's an unblocked defender causing problems.

"It's real difficult to make a play work in situations like that, but my mindset is just try to get anything that's positive and just make sure I don't get tackled for like a loss of 1 or 2, because it can put the offense in an even worse situation," Lacy said.

In the never-ending coaching chess match, it's up to McCarthy and his assistants to respond. To their advantage, Tolzien — just a practice squad player three weeks ago — has shown he can hit receivers deep.

And gearing up to stop the run gives receivers such as Jordy Nelson more room to make plays in single coverage. The Packers' top playmaker this season (57 catches, 889 yards, 7 TDs) smiled at that notion.

"I mean it's the way it's going to be," Nelson said. "I mean if I was a defensive coordinator I'd be doing the same thing."

However they respond, the Packers better make it quick. At 5-5, they face a critical two-game stretch against NFC North rivals: Minnesota on Sunday before traveling to Detroit for a Thanksgiving Day game four days later.

Playing divisional games adds urgency as it is, but the even-keeled Tolzien said he's not feeling any more pressure. For a former third-string quarterback thrust into a starting job on one of the NFL's marquee teams, Tolzien has played OK; he was 24 of 34 for 339 yards last week against the Giants.

But three interceptions helped kill the Packers' chances, including one on a decision to throw across his body into the middle of the field.

"Like any game since the first game you ever played, there's good and bad. But you always focus on what you can improve on first," Tolzien said. "Just like I said after the game, first and foremost is taking care of the football. That's an area of emphasis meeting with my coaches."

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