Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI
Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI

The Right Call on Rodgers

Cheesehead Nation would love to see its Super Bowl-winning quarterback return for the do-or-die Week 17 showdown against the Bears. Thank goodness the fans aren’t the ones deciding

By
Greg A. Bedard
· More from Greg·

It’s going to be a long week of consternation in Packerland as the Aaron Rodgers Watch will be in full swing. Will he or won’t he play in the winner-take-all NFC North title game against the rival Bears on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field?

Rodgers has missed the past seven games with a fractured left collarbone suffered Nov. 4 against the same Bears. Despite practicing on at least a limited basis since Nov. 26 and looking ready to play last week according to coach Mike McCarthy, Rodgers has been idle.

You know the rest of the story. The Packers have gone 2-5-1 (including the game Rodgers exited in the first quarter against Chicago) with three different starting quarterbacks. They looked as if they’d blown their chance at the postseason with a 38-31 home loss to the Steelers, as quarterback Matt Flynn turned the ball over twice in the second half, resulting in Steelers touchdowns. But the Bears’ 54-11 loss to the Eagles on Sunday night setup the showdown.

After Sunday’s loss, there were probably plenty of Packers fans who were cursing team doctor Pat McKenzie and general manager Ted Thompson for holding out Rodgers. Now that the Packers are still in the playoff hunt, they’re probably foaming at the mouth for No. 12 to be back under center with the season now at the precipice.

Matt Flynn has been serviceable in relief of Rodgers, but with the postseason on the line Packerland hopes for something more. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Matt Flynn has been serviceable in relief of Rodgers, but with the postseason on the line Packerland hopes for something more. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Too bad the decision has nothing to do with them.

Look, I get it, Wisconsin. You live and die with the Packers. It’s not a seasonal thing—the Packers matter 365 days a year. You’ve bought the jerseys, fretted over the practice squad left guard since off-season minicamp and sat on aluminum bleachers in frigid conditions. You’re invested, literally with your shareholder status, to the tilt.

But you’re not invested like Rodgers, Thompson and McKenzie.

Rodgers just turned 30, and probably has another 10 years to play. Thompson signed him in April to a five-year, $110 million contract extension, with $54 million guaranteed. McKenzie has been in charge of the Packers’ medical decisions since the early 1990s.

The Packers and Rodgers have kept the details of the entire process concerning his recovery and readiness to a minimum. That’s good for the organization, but frustrating to fans and the media.

As Eddie Lacy and the Packers go head-first into Chicago in Week 17, a strong ground game against the Bears’ sieve-like run D could take pressure off the QB. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
As Eddie Lacy and the Packers go head-first into Chicago in Week 17, a strong ground game against the Bears’ sieve-like run D could take pressure off the QB. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Rodgers has strongly indicated that he hoped to be cleared by now. He’s a football player, and a darn tough one who played four seasons of high school and college ball with a torn ACL in his left knee—no one should ever question his toughness or desire to play hurt. He also happens to be the successor to Brett Favre, who played 275 straight games, some through terrible injuries. That all leads to one mindset for a leader like Rodgers, who knows that playoff berths and shots at the Super Bowl are fleeting: I need to play for my teammates, damn the short-term consequences. If I re-break my collarbone, I can have surgery and be back in three months.

But a collarbone is much different from most arm or leg fractures. If Rodgers gets pounded by an on-rushing 300-pound defender, there is the risk of a displaced fracture, endangering the nerves and blood supply—a career-threatening possibility. And that’s without complications from potential surgery. Look how long it took Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to return from a forearm fracture because of infection.

That’s why NFL franchises have medical professionals: to take all the information—which no one beyond Rodgers, his agent and the team brass knows—and act in the best interest of the player (no matter how strongly he wants to get on the field) while keeping an eye on the long-term interest of the franchise. Thompson, McKenzie and even trainer Pepper Burruss have long histories together making these types of decisions. They’ll do what they think is right.

That might not make some fans happy. That might not even make Rodgers happy. But McKenzie and Thompson know what’s best for Rodgers and the Packers, and that’s how they’ll make their determination.

Win or lose, no matter what decision the Packers make, it’s the right call. They have the information. You and I do not. They were right to hold out Rodgers against the Steelers, and they’ll be right if that’s the decision they make this week.

Aaron Rodgers learned plenty about playing tough from Brett Favre, but he and the Green Bay decision-makers must do what’s best for everyone’s long-term interests. (Morry Gash/AP)
Aaron Rodgers learned plenty about playing tough from Brett Favre, but he and the Green Bay decision-makers must do what’s best for everyone’s long-term interests. (Morry Gash/AP)

themmqb.com

30 comments
loaded_question
loaded_question

Why was it so inflammatory to suggest and finally carry out the same thing for RG3? It was as if the TV announcers were insulted by the suggestion that RG3 would have to heal. All that warrior mentality must have frozen a few brains. Yet last season the hangman was called out to find out why he was thrown back in too early. Whatever sells tickets and advertising I guess.

ianlinross
ianlinross

I agree the Pack must do what's best in the long-term. But it's the Packers that keep this week to week drama going, probably for competitive reasons. I have to yet to hear a Wisconsin reporter ask in the weekly press conferences, is it an "organizational decision" to shut Aaron Rodgers down for the season?, and I would keep asking the question until Mike McCarthy's head explodes. It's the organization that's creating this drama. 

jazzcatguido
jazzcatguido

greg a bedard? the joke the JSOline threw to boston??

hey bedard, please roll over & die.

Dxwilson1
Dxwilson1

This coming from a bears fan....you do not need Rodgers to beat the Bears, our defense is a complete joke....the Pack should sit Rodgers if he is not 100% healthy and focus on the def game plan. It does not matter who you roll out at qb...just hand the ball off and triple cover Marshall. Cutler will still throw to him and the Pack will walk into the playoffs.

Mark Trestman

tehbobb
tehbobb

For the record, there are lots of Cheeseheads that want to see Rodgers benched until next season. I am one of them.

jjberg73
jjberg73

I agree that sitting him is the right call if the risk of permanent injury is high. However, none of this will help if Ted Thompson doesn't start drafting or (gasp) signing some better defensive players. I realize there have been injuries all over the place. But at some point Thompson has to reevaluate his draft and develop mentality. How many draft and develop guys haven't worked out so far. Raji is having his worst year yet. Perry can't stay on the field for more than half a year. Tramon gets beat every play. M. D. Jennings shouldn't even be playing he's so bad at this point. Brad Jones has too many missed assignments and missed tackles. It seems to me that Thompson could sign a few role players that are solid fundamentally to fill some of these gaps. It's clear from this year that 14 rookies can't fill the holes in a defense enough to be competitive against the NFL's elite teams. Great, you can win the division every year. But then you get crushed in the playoffs by a team like SF or New York who can actually play defense.

Tom_Weiland
Tom_Weiland

I would like to hear from some other doctors about their opinion of how long it takes for a hairline collar bone fracture to heal on a very healthy young man like Rodgers.  Most medical professionals I have talked to said it should have completely healed by now.  I realize that there is always that potential to re-injure, but it seems that they are really coddling him to the extreme.  Doesn't EVERY player have the potential to be injured on every down? 

gary41
gary41

This was not a medical decision.  It was all about having another look at Flynn, because later on a decision has to be made about the existing backup problem at QB.  What we know is that Flynn, with no pressure earlier, was deceptively pretty good in the past, but not suitable down the road.  Next week Rodgers will play.   

MichaelSandmire
MichaelSandmire

The Clay Mathews injury illustrates the risk of playing with a broken bone before it is fully healed. Ted Thompson has proven he is a long term thinker. He seldom roles the dice on free agents preferring to build through the draft. He spent a first round draft choice on a QB when there was no immediate benefit to a playoff caliber team. It has also been reported that they err on the side of caution when it comes to players returning from injury. Bottom line: Rodgers will not see the field again this season.

SPHeroid
SPHeroid

I won't second guess the good doctor......


But a Division title and a home playoff game is worth, at least, $20 mil to the team....Perhaps more....


Rodgers does not have to play every snap....Just the BIG ones.......

packergalmke
packergalmke

I have said from the very beginning that it may be best to put Aaron Rodgers on IR for the rest of the season.  Let Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzein run the offense.  Then get Dom Capers to tweak the defense and try to do something to make it better.  The Packers can come back next season and kick NFL a$$.  Even if Rodgers is good enough to play, the rest of the team pretty much sucks and a one and done shot in the playoffs is disappointing.

RescuedfromESPN
RescuedfromESPN

What is the worst that could happen if Rodgers plays? Worst-case scenario he fractures it completely and has a good 6-7 months to recover, still be back for the start of the season. Why not? really?

RichMallard
RichMallard

Thank Goodness the fans aren't deciding? We are the team! We are the owners! You idiot GM only care about long term and money! We care about winning now! Who ever wrote this article can go kick rocks.

caruso81
caruso81

OK. Fine. Makes sense except for one thing. Clay Matthews was clearly at risk to play, and he was cleared. Reports said he could suffer permanent damage and lose use of his thumb if he reinjured it. Well, guess what...

The Packers have two problems. First, they seem to have a double standard going here. Matthews has reinjured his thumb by playing when it was not completely healed, and it could be argued he is nearly as valuable to the Packers as Rodgers. Two, they seem obsessed with maintaining a level of secrecy that does nothing but fuel this fire of speculation and criticism. If they would come out and say Aaron's problem is serious because of A, B, and C. He's not going to be ready, and we are putting him on IR, the fans would be upset, but I guarantee they would understand. Right now, the Packers just look incompetent, and this subterfuge is fooling no one.

bighead1
bighead1

Absolutely Packer fans want Aaron on the field but not if he is at risk,his health is paramount!

MEStenz
MEStenz

Unfortunately the reality is, even if the Packers win the division- the euphoria will last only a week- because we will be subjected to a third 500 yard offensive killing in the post-season until this defense can play some fundamental football again.  Bring Rodgers back 100% and let's look to 2014.  

PackerFanTomH
PackerFanTomH

Hi Greg,


I enjoyed your writings for Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal when you were there.  I think you're railing against a straw man here a wee bit though.  I think a lot of cheese heads have the right perspective on this one.  It's clear to me that Dr. McKenzie won't clear Rodgers until a certain amount of time has passed and we don't know what time that is.  Dr. McKenzie's medical credentials are above reproach as he knows his patients (Rodgers) medical condition better than anyone else.  Really I think most Packers get this.

StephenGrange
StephenGrange

Not all fractures are equal...Anyone that doubts that Rodgers would likely sell his soul to play needs their head examined....Short term loss vs. long term gain (Rodgers IS their future)...


But I sure do understand the longing.....

emmabean2000
emmabean2000

@jjberg73 What is depressing is that he tried to focus last years draft on defense.  Lacy sort of fell into his lap, but then drafting Franklin right after was a bad decision.  I really wish they would have held on to Woodson for one more year.  Sure, he may not make the plays, but they lost a leader and it shows.

jb22
jb22

@RescuedfromESPN If you read the article you'd know what the worst-case is, and it's not what you posted.

Zeon
Zeon

@RescuedfromESPN Why not? Because it might not heal, it might end his career. It might leave him in permanent pain. 

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@RichMallard  

So for an outside shot at a playoff "run" that will probably be one-and-done, you screw up your QB forever.

Dumb.

Psychotic.

jinx2477777
jinx2477777

@caruso81 

easir to protect a thumb but not the qb by a blind side hit that reinjuries that shouldder

r7apple
r7apple

@bighead1 lol, but you have no problems with Matthews running around with a clearly unhealed thumb.

BY
BY

@MEStenz This might be the most rational think I've ever read on the Internet...Thanks!

gary41
gary41

@StephenGrangeYes, not all fractures are the equal and it would have been nice to know all the details.  Nonetheless, it was a fracture of the left clavicle--not an extremity and one of the easiest to heal.  In fact, after 5 weeks, he was throwing in practice and said to be doing well---without pain.  Thereafter, it came as a big surprise that he was suddenly pulled off the starting rotation by the 'organization', not the physician, in favor of Flynn.  Nobody said he was pulled from the rotation because of any complication with healing.      

emmabean2000
emmabean2000

@jb22 @RescuedfromESPN The worse case scenario is that one of the NFL's best player loses an entire off-season.  From my understanding, that is a legitimate excuse, even for the best players.  Looking at the whole, the defense just cannot win more than one game, even with Rodgers, so why risk the long term plans of the organization. Plus, who is to say that he would not have 3/4 of a games worth of rust to work out.  Tossing a ball around an indoor practice field wearing a red jersey is not the same as playing in 20 degree temps with a legitimate defense on the other side.  This one is all on TT.  He tried to outsmart everyone, and came up empty.  

emmabean2000
emmabean2000

@r7apple @bighead1 Different injury, to a different player.  Clearly, a collarbone on a QB is not the same as a thumb on a linebacker.  Defensive players play with clubs on their hands.  I can't see a quarterback playing with some kind of support on his collarbone to protect it.

emmabean2000
emmabean2000

@gary41 @StephenGrange The Packers have some PR issues.  Going back to how they handled Favre to today, TT could use someone with legitimate PR skills to help guide the organization.  Unfortunately, TT is a bit stubborn and probably would not listen.


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