GREEN BAY — Officially, Aaron Rodgers is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.
The quarterback’s Green Bay Packers teammates, meanwhile, don’t have much question. They expect their star to play despite a painful sprained left knee that coach Mike McCarthy would only say Friday is “getting better.”
The Packers spent Friday having regular meetings and their weekly Soft Tissue Activation and Application (STAA) day, which consists of massages, yoga and other preventative maintenance aimed at reducing injuries. Today, they’ll have their final practice of the week, and McCarthy indicated that after not practicing on Wednesday and Thursday, Rodgers might take part.
Rodgers has spent the week with the athletic trainers and medical staff doing rehabilitation work in hopes of reducing the swelling and improving the knee’s functionality.
“I would say he feels better than he did at the beginning of the week. (Saturday’s) practice will be a pretty big indicator,” McCarthy said Friday morning. “Nothing has changed. He’s clearly in the day-to-day (category). Hopefully, he’ll be able to do work (Saturday), but I can’t answer that question.”
Both McCarthy and Rodgers said earlier in the week he won’t have to practice in order to play on Sunday. In 2016, the NFL did away with its “probable” injury report designation, so now being listed as questionable — which used to mean the player was 50/50 to play — simply means “it is uncertain as to whether the player will play in the game.”
While he confirmed the knee sprain — which, by definition, means he at least partially tore a ligament — Rodgers has declined to say which ligament he damaged when Chicago Bears defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris landed on him early in last Sunday night’s 24-23 comeback victory.
Having witnessed what Rodgers did that night — returning to the field after halftime and rallying the Packers from a 20-0 deficit while completing 17 of 23 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns (152.7 rating) after the injury — Rodgers’ teammates are expecting him to be under center, especially after missing nine-plus games with a broken right collarbone (courtesy of the Vikings) last season.
“Aaron’s one of the greatest players to play this game. I’m sure we can all agree with that,” defensive end Mike Daniels said Friday. “Injury or not, Aaron, he’s dangerous. I’m just glad we’re teammates and not opponents.”
Added safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: “To see him come out and perform like he did in the second half, he wants to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was out there. Not at all.”
Wide receiver Davante Adams, who is listed as questionable himself because of a shoulder injury sustained against the Bears, said he believes Dr. Pat McKenzie will have a tough time convincing Rodgers not to play if it’s a close call.
“One hundred percent (he wants to play). You see the look in his eye, you know he’s hungry to do it,” Adams said. “I don’t see not playing in his future in terms of his mindset. Again, I don’t know what’s exactly going on with the injury, but I know he’s ready to attack them after going down against them last year.”
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga, Rodgers’ teammate since 2010, likened Rodgers to offensive linemen, who like to think they can play through anything.
“We know Aaron wants to be out there, and how he operates, he’s one of the most competitive guys I know. If he feels like he can play, he’s going to do it,” Bulaga said. “If that’s an offensive lineman mentality, he has it. And he’s had it since I was a rookie. If he feels like he can do it, he’ll do it. That’s not me putting any expectations on him. But I know that if he thinks he can do it, he’s going to do it.”
Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who was on the Packers’ coaching staff to see Brett Favre play through a variety of injuries, saw Rodgers play with a broken foot (2006) and a separated throwing shoulder (2008) but was the Miami Dolphins head coach when Rodgers played with a torn calf in 2014. Asked how effective he thinks Rodgers could be if he plays hurt, Philbin said he wouldn’t bet against him.
“His competitive nature kind of takes over,” Philbin said. “He’s obviously got exceptional talent. We all know that. We can all see that. You don’t have to be an expert to figure that out. But I think the thing that separates a lot of great players from good players in this league — that competitive spirit. You certainly saw that in full force in the second half (against Chicago).
“He always has a little bit of edge to him — in a good way. I think it’s helped him accomplish a lot of the things he’s been able to accomplish as a player.”