GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers was emphatic initially.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback had just engineered an incredible come-from-behind 24-23 victory over the Chicago Bears – a triumph fueled in part, he admitted, by the adrenaline coursing through his veins after he’d returned from what appeared to be a serious left knee injury – and he was doing the obligatory post-game interview with NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” crew when he was asked if he was playing next week.
“Oh,” Rodgers responded. “I’ll play next week.”
After the game, once the euphoria had subsided a bit, Rodgers did his best to toe the company line of not giving out too much injury intel. He spoke of further exams being needed (“We’ll do some tests tomorrow”) and about how the knee looked (“I’ve got a lot of swelling”) and pushing off anything definitive until later (“I’ll give you a better answer Wednesday”).
But in the end, Rodgers couldn’t help himself. Asked point-blank if he believes he’ll play next Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings – the team that wrecked his 2017 season when Anthony Barr broke Rodgers’ right collarbone on Oct. 15 at U.S. Bank Stadium – Rodgers relented and replied, “I plan on playing.”
How the knee will respond remains to be seen. It is the same knee in which he’d torn the ACL in high school and undergone what he’d termed a “clean-up” surgery after the 2015 season.
But, Rodgers said, he and team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie did extensive tests on it in the medical area of Lambeau Field and then tested the knee in the CRIC indoor practice facility inside the building before determining that there wasn’t any risk of further damage if he played. Even so, Rodgers declined to say exactly what the diagnosed injury was.
Rodgers, who sustained the injury early in the second quarter, admitted that the adrenaline rush of the Lambeau Field crowd cheering as he jogged back onto the field after halftime helped, but that the knee began to tighten up on the sideline late in the game.
The Green Bay Packers kicked off the 2018 regular season with a stunning comeback victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
Asked when he knew the Packers were going to win, Rodgers replied with a smile, “Walking out the second half. I realized I probably should jog. I was thinking about walking all the way out from the tunnel, but then I figured I better jog a little bit to let Dr. McKenzie know I could do that. When I got the ovation, at that point, I said, ‘We might as well win this thing.’”
And that’s what they did on Rodgers’ 75-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 2 minutes, 13 seconds left in the game – a play on which Rodgers and Cobb, teammates for eight years, were on the same wavelength.
“Nothing’s easy in this business,” Rodgers said. “But the familiarity and him stopping his route there (was crucial). Once I saw him put his foot in the ground and move back to the left, I knew that was where the ball had to go.”
The Packers were able to win despite backup quarterback DeShone Kizer’s disastrous two series while Rodgers was sidelined.
Kizer initially moved the Green Bay offense before his first series ended with a sack/fumble caused and recovered by new Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack. The next time the Packers got the ball, it ended with Mack again – this time, with him intercepting a wayward Kizer screen pass and returning it 27 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 halftime lead.
Kizer was making his regular-season debut with the Packers after earning the No. 2 job in training camp. Acquired from the Cleveland Browns in a trade in March, Kizer took over the job from Brett Hundley, who started nine games last season but was traded to the Seattle Seahawks for a sixth-round draft pick late last month.
“It’s a learning experience,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Kizer’s performance. “We’ve got to take care of the football.”
Rodgers credited running back Ty Montgomery for blocking two players – sort of – on Cobb’s touchdown. At least Montgomery got in two Bears’ way on the long Cobb run. “Ty didn’t quite know who to block on the play,” Rodgers quipped. … Mack, whom the Packers tried to acquire from Oakland before the Bears gave up two first-round picks for him, finished with three tackles, the pick-six interception for a touchdown, a sack, another quarterback hit, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. … Rookie fourth-round pick J’Mon Moore was inactive, while fifth-round pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling and sixth-rounder Equanimeous St. Brown were active ahead of him. … Returner Trevor Davis was a late scratch because of a hamstring injury. Montgomery returned kickoffs and Cobb handled punts in his place.