To keep their playoff hopes alive, the Green Bay Packers will have to finally win a game without Aaron Rodgers.
Coach Mike McCarthy, not surprisingly, ruled out the former MVP quarterback on Friday. Rodgers has practiced the last two weeks but has not been cleared medically after sustaining a broken collarbone against Chicago on Nov. 4.
“Aaron Rodgers is not ready to go,” McCarthy said after Friday’s practice.
The Packers, who have gone 0-4-1 without Rodgers to fall from first place in the NFC North to 10th place in the conference, will go with Matt Flynn against the Falcons.
Flynn played well on almost no reps to rally the Packers to a tie against the Vikings but performed poorly on a short week in a blowout loss at Detroit. Now, Flynn’s had the normal workweek to get ready, which gives him confidence he can make the plays necessary to get the Packers a win. If Green Bay wins and Detroit loses at Philadelphia, the Packers would be just a half-game out of first place in the North with three games to play.
“Now I feel like I’m calling the plays and not really thinking about where guys are lined up or what they’re running,” Flynn said on Friday. “I feel more fluid with everybody, and I feel like we were able to get a little chemistry going.”
Even though McCarthy – at least publicly – held out some hope that Rodgers would be available this week, he said game-planning and practice was handled the same as it has the past few weeks.
“We don’t sit around and hope on things,” McCarthy said.
So, the Rodgers Watch gets put off for another week. Green Bay plays at Dallas next week, hosts Pittsburgh after that and visits Chicago in the regular-season finale.
“Aaron’s frustrated,” McCarthy said. “But we’re in meetings all day together. There’s a conversation each and every day. He’s like every other player that’s fighting to get back on the field. He has a rehab program, and how he feels going through it is obviously expressed every day. He’s frustrated.”
Rodgers was scanned on Tuesday but the results weren’t encouraging because the break had not fully healed. On Wednesday, McCarthy said no further scans were scheduled, which foreshadowed Friday’s decision.
“He’s always handled adversity well,” Flynn said. “Whether it was my rookie year or whether it’s dealing with injury or whatever it is, he’s always handled adversity very well and the best I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t really let it show to anybody else, but you know he’s frustrated and you know he wants to get out there. This is his team and for him not to be out there is really hard on him. But he doesn’t let it show. He’s been great trying to get me ready, and just trying to pass on tips, as he always did when I was here for four years. He’s been a great asset for us.”
Packers injury report
Out: QB Aaron Rodgers (collarbone), DE C.J. Wilson (ankle). Questionable: C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith (ankle/knee). Probable: LT David Bakhtiari (illness), TE Brandon Bostick (concussion), ILB Jamari Lattimore (quad), OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), OLB Nick Perry (foot), DT Ryan Pickett (knee).
Dietrich-Smith, who dropped out of the Detroit game with a knee injury, injured an ankle at Wednesday’s practice. He will be tested on Saturday. If he can’t play, guard T.J. Lang almost certainly would move to center. After that, the Packers could go with how they played most of the second half of last week’s game, with Marshall Newhouse at right guard and Don Barclay staying at right tackle. Or, Barclay could go to guard and Newhouse or Derek Sherrod could start at right tackle. Another possibility would be sticking undrafted rookie Lane Taylor in at right guard and going with Barclay or Sherrod at right tackle. Taylor played the final nine snaps and Sherrod the final six against Detroit.
After missing Thursday’s practice, Bakhtiari was a full participant and Pickett was limited. Neal (limited) practiced for the first time this week.
Falcons injury report
Questionable: TE Tony Gonzalez (toe), S Zeke Motta (hand). Probable: C Peter Konz (ankle), LB Sean Weatherspoon (knee).
-- Flynn, on facing eight-in-the-box defenses: “It should be a quarterback’s dream. Obviously, last week, we didn’t execute, but that’s over with and we need to get it done and play like the Green Bay Packers.”
-- After spending most of the practice time this week in the Don Hutson Center due to cold and windy conditions, the team ventured outside for the second half of Friday’s practice. “We were on the Nitschke Field now so, obviously, we have limited space there; 50 yards (are heated to prevent freezing),” McCarthy said. “It (footing) is really good. It’s the best field in Wisconsin. No disrespect to Lambeau. The field is in incredible shape.”
-- McCarthy was happy with the week of work. “The focus and the energy, I’m very pleased, and I’m not trying to get too high here, but I’m very, very pleased with this week of preparation. For as poorly as we played on Thanksgiving Day, this break has been very good for our football team. I knew it would be physically but I think it’s definitely been mentally. We’ve definitely been recharged. More importantly, we’ve got to show up and express that on Sunday. That’s what we’re set out to do.”
-- Randall Cobb, who was eligible to start practicing this week, has not been cleared by the medical staff to even begin running.
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.