Packers notebook: Aaron Rodgers’ season ends with a concussion, and a disappointing loss
GREEN BAY — Justin McCray didn’t necessarily notice anything odd about his quarterback, but the Green Bay Packers offensive lineman knew this: The hit that Aaron Rodgers took on his first dropback of Sunday’s 31-0 loss to the Detroit Lions was a wicked one.
So, McCray wasn’t necessarily surprised that Rodgers left the game with a concussion a couple series later. But he was surprised that Rodgers stayed in the game as long as he did after being tackled so hard on a sack by Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis that Rodgers’ helmet went flying off.
“Honestly, (Rodgers) seemed normal, but he knew more than we did,” McCray said. “That was a pretty big hit. We commend him for even trying to stay in there longer. But I’m glad he got out of there when he did.”
Rodgers departed the game after playing three series, all of which ended in punts after three-and-outs. Early in the second quarter, Rodgers walked under his own power to the Packers locker room with team physician Dr. John Gray, who is called upon in concussion situations, and veteran athletic trainer Kurt Fielding.
Later, Rodgers was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for evaluation and observation. He was then allowed to return to Lambeau Field and was in the locker room with his teammates when the game ended.
Interim head coach Joe Philbin said he met with Rodgers on the Packers’ sideline after each of those three series and didn’t notice anything amiss with the quarterback.
Asked if Rodgers suffered the concussion on Davis’ hit, Philbin replied, “I’m not exactly sure, to be honest with you. I’ll have to take a closer look. But I had sat down with him after each series.
“(After the first series), I went to the bench there and apologized for the great second-and-10 call that got him sacked. But he seemed OK. … He and I we spoke after that third series and he said he was getting evaluated (for a concussion).”
Philbin said he wasn’t sure if Rodgers went to the medical staff and said he was having concussion symptoms or if the independent spotter called the team’s attention to Rodgers.
Center Corey Linsley said Rodgers spoke emotionally to the offensive linemen before leaving the field.
“He got emotional. I just think that needs to be said,” Linsley said of Rodgers. “For that guy to come over to us and rally around us and tell us he wasn’t going (back in) and he was devastated about it — honestly, that meant a lot to us. That’s just shows you what kind of guy he is, honestly.”
Linebacker Clay Matthews said Rodgers told him he intended to play the entire game, just as he did in last week’s overtime win over the New York Jets.
“I had talked with Aaron actually before the game. I said, ‘How long are you playing?’ He said, ‘I’m going the distance.’ I said, ‘All right, I’ll be out there with you in the fourth.’ But it didn’t play out like that,” Matthews said. “It’s unfortunate because Aaron means so much to this team and gets us going. After that (concussion) happened, (the Lions) got up early and really took over this game.”
The Packers started the game with two fill-ins at guard, with Lucas Patrick at left guard and McCray at right guard. Then, when left tackle David Bakhtiari’s hip injury from last week flared up and Patrick aggravated an abdominal injury, they both came out of the game. Usual starting left guard Lane Taylor, who was active only as a backup because of a knee injury, came into the game at his spot, while rookie Alex Light came in at right guard and McCray kicked out to left tackle when offensive line coach James Campen felt it made more sense to move McCray than put the inexperienced Light at left tackle.
“Dave and Lucas were battling through things the entire week, and they gave it their best effort. You have to commend those guys for that,” McCray said. “There were some moving pieces.
“’Camp’ felt it was better with me out there even though I hadn’t played there in awhile. That was a little bit of a challenge, but I love playing, so any chance I get to play, I’m going to go out there.”
ESPN.com reported Sunday evening that the Packers assistant coaches will not be fired right away now that the season is over. Instead, they will remain under contract but won’t have to work past Tuesday or Wednesday while awaiting a new head coach — whether that’s Philbin or someone else.
Most of the coaches who were hired by ex-head coach Mike McCarthy are under contract for the 2019 season, which means the new head coach will decide whether to retain any of them. When McCarthy was hired in 2006, he kept both Philbin and Campen on staff from his predecessor Mike Sherman’s staff.
That means the Packers will have the ability to give or deny permission for the assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, to interview for other NFL jobs.
Philbin, meanwhile, indicated he might consider returning to the staff in another capacity if he doesn’t get the head-coaching job and a new coach wants him to stay on.
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t rule anything out. What’s that saying, never say never?” Philbin said. “(I) love the coaching profession, love what I do. We’ll take everything one day at a time. I did the best I could. I don’t regret anything. I’m not embarrassed about anything. Disappointed for the fans and the team and the score today. That being said, I’ll take full responsibility for it. It wasn’t anybody else’s fault. We’ll see what happens.”
No records for Adams
Wide receiver Davante Adams was inactive because of the knee injury he sustained last week against the New York Jets, denying him a chance at a pair of franchise single-season receiving records. Adams finished the season with 111 receptions (one shy of Sterling Sharpe’s 1993 record of 112) and 1,386 receiving yards (133 shy of Jordy Nelson’s 2014 record of 1,519).
Fellow wide receiver Randall Cobb said the players learned “a couple days ago” that Adams wasn’t going to play, meaning the decision was likely made on Friday.
“Obviously he wanted to go, but it’s a lot bigger than him,” Cobb said.
Philbin said the decision was a collaborative effort and that Adams eventually was on board after considering the big picture.
“Obviously, he’s had an outstanding season and he’s been a really big part of the offense,” Philbin said. “We were hoping (he’d play). I think everybody in this organization puts the health and the safety of the players as the top priority. And at the end of the day it was universal.
“The guy’s a super competitor. Obviously, he wants to play every single week, wants the ball. But I spoke to him multiple times. So in a lot of respects it wasn’t that hard of a decision.”