If Aaron Rodgers has his way – and his still-healing broken collarbone cooperates – he will be back in the starting lineup before Thanksgiving.
Well, check that. If the Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl quarterback had his way, he’d be starting this Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium – even though coach Mike McCarthy has already said that Scott Tolzien will start.
Speaking on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com, Rodgers acknowledged that he has a game in mind for his return. Asked if it was the team’s Nov. 28 Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit, Rodgers replied, “I would like to be back this week. Now, whether that’s realistic or not remains to be seen. I would never rule myself out on a Tuesday. Now, Mike probably already has, I think.”
Rodgers fractured his left collarbone on the opening drive of a 27-20 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football on Nov. 4. Without explicitly saying so, though, Rodgers hinted that his goal is to play Nov. 24 against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field – which would be 20 days from the injury.
“I haven’t given up hope on playing any week. It depends on how I heal and depends on what the next x-ray looks like,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, this week is probably not going to happen -- not going to happen. (pause) Probably not going to happen.”
While Rodgers heaped praise upon Tolzien, who took over for an injured Seneca Wallace following the first series in Sunday’s 27-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and played well considering the circumstances, he has to be concerned about the Packers’ season getting away from them after back-to-back losses to the Bears and Eagles – both of which he likely feels were games the Packers would have won had he not been injured. Now, the Packers (5-4) must win on the road against the Giants (3-6), a team that has won three straight after starting 0-6.
The Packers, meanwhile, had recovered from a 1-2 start by reeling off four straight victories, and Rodgers has to be antsy knowing that the longer he is out, the harder the Packers’ road to the playoffs will likely become.
At 5-4, the Packers enter this week’s games tied for second in the NFC North with the Bears, one game back of the Lions (6-3). The Seattle Seahawks (9-1), New Orleans Saints (7-2), San Francisco 49ers (6-3), Carolina Panthers (6-3) and Lions all have better records than the Packers, and the NFC East’s co-leaders, Dallas and Philadelphia, are both 5-5.
Say the Packers lose to the Giants Sunday and Rodgers sits out against the Vikings – a team the Packers beat, 44-31, in Minneapolis last month – and they lose that game, too. They’d be 5-6 going into Thanksgiving, and they’d likely have to run the table to make the playoffs at 10-6. Winning in Detroit without Rodgers would seemingly be a tall order, as well.
In 2010, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo suffered a broken collarbone in the sixth game of the season, on Oct. 25. The Cowboys lost that game to fall to 1-5, and his backup, Jon Kitna, went 2-3 over the next five games. Even at 3-8, Romo was still lobbying to play. The Cowboys finally put him on injured reserve on Dec. 23, never having played another game, and Romo finished the season having completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 1,605 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions (94.9 quarterback rating). The Cowboys finished 6-10.
“I’m doing everything I can to get back out there,” Rodgers said Tuesday. “We have our treatment routines. Again, it's giving the bone time to heal and not trying to do anything too stupid to aggravate it. The collarbone obviously has an important role in your shoulder movement. Small victories to me have been being able to sleep through an entire night, which I finally can; being able to put a shirt over my head, which I can now; putting socks on. Yes, I can put them on without being in an extreme amount of pain.”
That doesn’t sound promising, although Rodgers did say Tuesday was “the best I’ve felt since the injury.” How much progress he can make in the next 11 days (to play against Minnesota) or 15 days (to play on Thanksgiving) remains to be seen.
But the reality is that if Rodgers isn’t cleared until the Dec. 8 game against Atlanta, and the Packers can’t win a game or two without him before that, it may be too late.
Asked if team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie will have the final call or if he could insist on playing despite the objections of the medical staff, Rodgers replied, “I’d like to think the latter.”
Rodgers also said he wasn’t worried about the risk of coming back too soon.
“I think I’m going to know when I’m ready to play,” he said. “And I’m going to play.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.