GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers wants to play. That much was very clear Friday.
What the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback does not want to do is get everyone’s hopes up as he did four years ago, the last time he broke his collarbone. That much was very clear as well.
And so, this is the reality for Rodgers, who fractured his right collarbone on Oct. 15 in Minnesota and had surgery to insert screws into a protective plate affixed to the bone four days later: Whether he returns this season is largely contingent on how quickly his collarbone heals — and whether the Packers can stay in contention for a playoff berth with backup Brett Hundley at quarterback.
“I want to be healthy. That’s the most important thing,” Rodgers said Friday, speaking with reporters for the first time since the injury. “But if we’re healthy in eight weeks and it would make sense to come back, then I’m going to come back.
“The only reason to come back would be that I’m healed completely. If that doesn’t happen in eight weeks, there’s not even a conversation.”
Rodgers repeatedly spoke of how the collarbone must heal before he can even entertain the idea of playing. But he also spoke of being able to see “the light at the end of the tunnel” and even intimated that if there’s been enough healing in the next month that maybe he’ll even return to practice in accordance with the NFL’s injured reserve rules.
“I’m always positive,” Rodgers said. “It comes down to how fast the bone heals. If it heals and we’re in the right position, there’s a conversation.”
Rodgers was injured when Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr tackled him after he threw a pass while rolling to his right outside the pocket. At the time, Rodgers reacted angrily to Barr’s hit and the two exchanged words, with Rodgers saying during a recent appearance on TBS’s “Conan” last week that Barr made an obscene gesture during their back-and-forth.
Asked Friday how he felt about the hit now, Rodgers replied, “I mean, it was deemed a legal hit, and you know that you don’t have the same protection outside the pocket. A simple shove-down probably would have sufficed in that situation, but it is what it is.”
Asked if he has any concerns about long-term effects of the injury on his ability to throw, Rodgers replied, “I don’t and neither do the doctors.”
But Rodgers acknowledged that he may have to contemplate adjusting his playing style since he’s now broken his collarbone twice in five years.
“I haven’t thought about that a whole lot. But what comes to mind right away (as an answer) is, ‘No.’ But I might need to think about that,” he said.
Rodgers was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 20, one day after surgery, which by NFL rules means he could begin practicing after six weeks and could play again after eight weeks — or longer, depending on how quickly he heals. Rodgers said he put his free time to use by searching for ways he could accelerate the bone’s healing in ways that are “obviously natural and legal and safe.”
Rodgers said the injury was “significantly different” than the fractured left collarbone he sustained in 2013 and that surgery was necessary because it was “definitely a much more intense injury.”
With his prior fractured collarbone, Rodgers did not have surgery and missed seven games and returned just in time for the regular-season finale, in which he threw a fourth-down, 48-yard touchdown pass in the final minute to Randall Cobb to beat the Chicago Bears and give the Packers the NFC North title.
In 2013, he felt better just a few weeks after the injury and was able to throw passes and do light work during practice, but the bone did not heal quickly enough to get him back on the field sooner — even though the injury was to his non-throwing shoulder.
“I think the best thing that happened probably in this is just to put me on IR. Because now you know it’s going to be at least eight weeks, where the last time, the hold-up was, the bone wasn’t healed,” Rodgers said. “You could see me throwing at practice, you could see me positive about it and feeling good, but then you’d go to the scan and it’s not healed yet.”
Rodgers returned to Green Bay on Monday after doing preliminary rehabilitation work in California. He will be on the sideline for Monday night’s game against the Lions. That should help Hundley, although Rodgers made it clear he doesn’t want to have a negative effect on the young quarterback, either.
“Maybe stay out of the way, to be honest,” Rodgers said when asked how he best could help Hundley. “It’s giving him space to be the guy but helping him as much as he wants. He’s a fantastic friend and player, and he’s got an opportunity now. I’m around and I’m an ear to listen and to bounce things off of.”