As has been the case the past seven weeks, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been declared out.
The tenor of the reasoning, however, was different.
“As an organization, we feel that we are not ready for him to play,” coach Mike McCarthy said after Friday’s practice.
The decision to hold out Rodgers for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh was anything but a surprise, including to the players.
During his weekly radio show at ESPN Milwaukee on Tuesday, Rodgers said the broken collarbone wouldn’t be scanned this week because he and the team knew what the results would be. In other words, the broken collarbone hadn’t fully healed. Without being fully healed, it was hard to imagine the medical staff, general manager Ted Thompson and McCarthy signing off on Rodgers’ return.
On Thursday, Rodgers said he had a “good sense” of what the decision would be. During Thursday’s practice, Matt Flynn took most of the team reps. That was a departure from last week, when Rodgers got a relatively high percentage of the reps on the Wednesday and Thursday before the Dallas game. Based on practice reps and Rodgers’ short, terse answers during a brief media session following Thursday’s practice, it was apparent which way the Packers were heading.
Nothing changed on Friday. After a “lot of conversation” before practice about Rodgers and his recovery, Rodgers did only individual drills on Friday. During the portion of practice open to reporters, Flynn ran the two-minute drill. Rodgers stood well behind the formation with his arms crossed.
“He’s not medically cleared. That’s still the case today,” McCarthy said. “But as an organization, we don’t feel that this is the right time for him to play.”
Would next week be the time to let him play, presuming the Packers have a chance to win the NFC North at Chicago?
“I’m not even talking about next week,” McCarthy said. “I’m focused on winning the game on Sunday.”
Rodgers, who sustained a broken collarbone during the first series of the Nov. 4 game against Chicago, will miss a seventh consecutive game, even though McCarthy on Thursday said Rodgers looked “ready to play.” On Friday, McCarthy praised Rodgers for doing everything possible to get ready to play.
“We’ve got two different circumstances here,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got Aaron Rodgers’ health and, obviously, where are as a football team. Until we feel good about where Aaron is medically, that will not be part of the second circumstance. So, as an organization, we are not ready for him to play.”
That leaves Flynn running the offense in what could be the Packers’ latest must-win game. The Packers host the Steelers at 3:25 p.m., with Chicago playing at Philadelphia on “Sunday Night Football.” A Green Bay loss and a Chicago win would eliminate the Packers from playoff contention. If the Packers win, they would win the NFC North championship by winning at Chicago next week.
“We feel that we can beat Pittsburgh with our football team,” McCarthy said. “That’s why we prepared. We came in here Monday morning preparing to beat Pittsburgh with Matt Flynn as the quarterback, stated that all along, was hopeful that Aaron’s situation would progress. As an organization, we don’t feel like he’s ready to play. And as a football team, we’re confident about our opportunity against a very good football team coming in here Sunday.”
Jordy Nelson, who said the players weren’t surprised by the decision on Rodgers, echoed McCarthy’s belief that Flynn can keep the Packers alive for another week.
“I think we’re very confident, especially after what we did in the second half in Dallas, scoring that many points in a half,” Nelson said. “We know Matt can make plays. We know as an offensive we can put points on the board. We just need to be consistent with it. If we do our part, the defense is going to be fine.”
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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.