Aaron Rodgers misses Thursday’s practice, is ‘very much involved’ in decision on approach to knee
GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers didn’t take part in the Green Bay Packers’ practice on Thursday, which wasn’t necessarily surprising. The two-time NFL MVP quarterback’s ailing left knee likely benefited more from doing rehabilitation work during practice than anything he might’ve done inside the Don Hutson Center.
While Rodgers expressed hope in the wake of last Sunday’s 29-29 tie with the Minnesota Vikings that he might be able to practice more than he did last week, the fact he didn’t participate Thursday was something Rodgers, team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie and the club’s medical staff all talked through before making the decision, coach Mike McCarthy said.
“All these players are professional athletes, (so) the amount of knowledge, particularly in Aaron’s case, (and) the experience and how well in-tune they are in their own body — they are really the key component of any diagnosis (and) the development through the rehab process,” McCarthy said. “In Aaron’s particular case, he’s very much involved. Our players don’t walk in and the doctor just tells them to, ‘Do that, do that.’ That’s not how it works.
“The feedback, the communication, just the involvement of all the resources — whether it’s the trainers, the strength and conditioning (staff), or most importantly the player and the doctor — that’s where those medical decisions come from.”
Rodgers’ comment on Wednesday acknowledging he has some concern about the injury worsening as the season goes on made headlines, even though Rodgers seemed to merely be acknowledging the obvious. He is still expected to start Sunday’s game at Washington, where he’ll continue to wear a protective knee brace.
Last week, Rodgers rehabbed on Wednesday and Thursday, then took part in Saturday’s light day-before-the-game practice. That appears to be the plan again this week.
“Last week was a waiting game to see if I could even play. Obviously the plan was to play the entire time, and the same thing this week,” Rodgers said. “I’m going to need to see certain looks in the walk-throughs to replace those reps I may or may not get in practice and try and get out there at least one day this week and feel good about the stuff we have moving on into Sunday.”
Rodgers did emphasize that just because he was able to do some things late in last week’s game against the Vikings — such as rolling out and extending plays — that doesn’t mean he’ll be able to do more from the start of the game against the Redskins. Rodgers acknowledged “the heat and the adrenaline definitely helped” him be more active against Minnesota.
“It’s just going to be something you’ve got to deal with for a while. Take it week by week. It doesn’t seem like there’s a major setback at this point, so just being smart about it and trying to get ready to play Sunday,” Rodgers said. “It’s a combination of understanding your body really well and knowing your weaknesses based on whatever is ailing you. For me, as a leader, I want to be out there with the guys. That’s my motivation, is to lead and be on the field and contribute. And like I’ve always said, unless it’s a super debilitating injury, I’d like to be out there.”
Hard work … and no practice?
McCarthy said he took some grief from his assistant coaches for giving an impassioned speech about hard work on Monday — and then canceling practice on Wednesday, citing the Sept. 9 Sunday night game and last week’s overtime game in unseasonably warm 80-degree temperatures.
“I took some ribbing from the coaches, especially after my talk to the team Monday,” McCarthy said. “We went from one extreme to the other in two days but, once again, it was for the right reasons.”
The Packers returned to their normal practice schedule on Thursday, working in pads as usual. But McCarthy said having one fewer practice will require players to be more vigilant in their mental preparation.
“There’s more of a challenge,” McCarthy said. “The fact of the matter is, there was a physical focus (Wednesday) as far as what we were trying to accomplish. So that was, frankly, the easy part. But the mental was the big challenge and we challenged them more mentally than we would on a normal Wednesday. It was a give-and-take because at the end of the day, we have to make sure we’re prepared to play the game.”
Cornerback Kevin King sat out practice with the groin injury that knocked him out of Sunday’s tie and appears unlikely to play against Washington.
“I think he’s going to be hard pressed to play this week,” McCarthy said.
The news was far more encouraging on rookie inside linebacker Oren Burks, who missed the first two games of the regular season with a shoulder injury suffered in pregame warmups before the team’s Aug. 24 preseason game at Oakland. Burks, who was in line to start alongside Blake Martinez following Jake Ryan’s season-ending knee injury in camp, practiced in full for a second straight day but McCarthy indicated veterans Korey Toomer and Antonio Morrison may continue to share work inside next to Martinez.
“It would be great to get ‘OB’ back out there,” McCarthy said. “As far as his involvement in the defense, that’s a work in progress. Obviously, his primary role will be special teams. We’ll see what the week brings us.”
Safety Josh Jones, who also missed the first two weeks with an ankle injury, practiced on a limited basis, as did cornerback Davon House (biceps).