Aaron Rodgers will not decide whether he will play again this season. His surgically repaired collarbone will make that call.
Speaking with reporters Friday for the first time since fracturing his right collarbone in an Oct. 15 loss to Minnesota, the Green Bay Packers quarterback said he wants to play again this season. He hopes that backup quarterback Brett Hundley and his teammates can keep the Packers in playoff contention while he is out, but how he heals is the key factor.
“First of all, I want to be healthy,” Rodgers said. “That’s the most important thing. But if we’re healthy in eight weeks and it would make sense to come back, then I’m going to come back.
“I’m always positive. It comes down to how fast the bone heals. If it heals and we’re in the right position, there’s a conversation.”
Injured when he was taken down by the Vikings’ Anthony Barr after throwing a pass while rolling out of the pocket, Rodgers underwent Oct. 19 surgery in which screws and a plate were affixed to his collarbone. Rodgers reacted angrily to Barr’s hit and the two exchanged words. Barr later said he didn’t intend to injure Rodgers.
Asked how he felt about the hit Friday, 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.”
Rodgers was placed on injured reserve the day after surgery, which by NFL rules meant 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 sudden excess of free time to good use by searching for ways he could accelerate the bone’s healing in ways that are “obviously natural and legal and safe.” He declined to get into specifics.
“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,” Rodgers said. “Where the last time, the holdup was the bone wasn’t healed. That was the main holdup. You could see me throwing at practice, you could see me [feeling] positive about it and feeling good, but then you’d go to the scan and it’s not healed yet. So it did take the duration.”
Rodgers broke his left collarbone in 2013 and he missed seven games without having surgery. He returned for the regular-season finale, in which he threw a fourth-down, 48-yard touchdown pass in the final minute to beat the Chicago Bears and give the Packers the NFC North title. The playoff berth kept alive a streak of postseason appearances that now stands at eight.
“I would just temper expectations because, as much as I would love to get back out there this year, if it’s not healed, then there’s no conversation,” Rodgers said. “If it is healed, then there’s a conversation and we’ll go from there.”
Rodgers is not allowed to run or throw but said he has been able to do some cardiovascular work to stay in shape.
“The biggest thing right now is range of motion and the strength, which ultimately won’t be the issues as we get to the end of this season,” Rodgers said. “It will be the bone healing. But there’s a timetable. I believe I can practice in six weeks based on the schedule. So if I’m at a place at that point healing-wise and [able] to throw, then I’ll be out here. And if I’m not, I won’t.”
The Packers (4-3) have struggled since Rodgers’ injury and face Detroit (3-4) at home on Monday night.
Rodgers was forced to watch the Packers’ Oct. 22 loss to the New Orleans Saints on television but will be on the sideline for the game against the Lions. That should help Hundley, though 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 replied 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. But he’s got a great quarterback coach and offensive coordinator and head coach who have been helping him out. He spent time here during the bye week. My role is to help him as much as I can and continue to give him the things he needs, as much or little as that is.”