Rodgers sustained a concussion on Green Bay’s final offensive play on Sunday at Washington, taking a hit from defensive end Jeremy Jarmon on a pass that was intercepted by safety LaRon Landry. He did not participate in practice on Wednesday, instead going through a conditioning test that is part of the NFL’s concussion protocol before he can be cleared to return to game action.
So the No. 1 reps in Wednesday’s practice went to the third-year signal-caller Flynn, whose mindset this week becomes one of a starter.
“I have to go into the week acting like I am going to play and think that just so I can prepare just in case it happens,” Flynn said. “I have gone into it and been studying a lot and really preparing like I am going to be playing.
“The job of the backup quarterback is to prepare like he is the starter every week, just in case that time comes. I got a lot of work at that at LSU. I was the backup behind JaMarcus (Russell) for a while, so I really before I got here understood what it meant to be a backup quarterback. I was very mentally ready to go into (the Washington game) if I needed to right there at the end.”
At LSU, Flynn served as the backup to a pair of NFL draft picks, Matt Mauck and Russell, before taking over as the starter his senior season, capping his career by leading the Tigers to the national championship.
Flynn didn’t have to enter Sunday’s game in Rodgers’ place because the Redskins utilized the field position they had following the interception to kick a game-winning 33-yard field goal, but filling in for an injured Rodgers is something he did back as a rookie in 2008.
In the Packers’ Week 4 contest at Tampa Bay, Rodgers was sidelined in the fourth quarter with a right shoulder injury, and Flynn was pressed into action for two series as he completed 2-of-5 passes for 6 yards. Heading into the game against Atlanta the following week, Flynn took the bulk of the reps with the No. 1 offense. Even though Rodgers ended up starting against the Falcons and every game that season, he was limited in practice for several weeks after sustaining the injury, giving Flynn valuable work to get comfortable with the offense.
“I feel like when I get these kinds of reps during practice, it really helps me as a quarterback,” Flynn said. “It helps me go in there and see the new game plan and work it all in practice. I feel like I have improved as a quarterback when this stuff happens. It happened to me my rookie year. I felt like when those couple of weeks when I was taking all of the reps that I really made strides as a quarterback. I feel like I am doing that right now and hopefully I keep improving.”
Flynn saw his most extended action last season, playing in each of the final two regular-season games with the Packers holding sizeable leads against Seattle and at Arizona. He completed 5-of-9 passes for 43 yards in those two contests, with one interception. After seeing limited action during the 2009 preseason due to a shoulder injury, Flynn got the most extensive work of his career this preseason, connecting on 50-of 85 passes for 583 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
“I think Matt is definitely ready to play if this was a one- or two-game type situation,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “Again, I do feel he has starter ability in the NFL. I’ve been around long enough, I feel I can recognize that. So I feel very comfortable with Matt Flynn as our quarterback.”
McCarthy said Rodgers will still have to go through a few more steps in the concussion testing, and he expected to have more information on where Rodgers was at in the process on Thursday morning. McCarthy didn’t discount the possibility of Rodgers still starting on Sunday if he wasn’t able to practice during the week.
“I would think he is probably to that point in his career that he could handle that,” McCarthy said. “Last week’s plan was cut back volume-wise, and we have gone with the same approach this week for different reasons. But yeah, that would definitely be an option.”
For Flynn, regardless of when he finds out whether he will be under center as the starter for the first time in his NFL career, the preparation remains the same.
“I don’t really need to know by any time because I am going to go into this week and every meeting like I am going to be playing,” Flynn said. “That is the backup’s job, that is what he has got to do, and you’ve got to be fair to everybody. I’ve got to go in there and be prepared just in case.
“I’m very comfortable with the offense. I’m very comfortable with everything. (McCarthy) might not have felt the same my rookie year when I was in the same situation, but it’s good to hear that he is confident in me and knows that I can run the whole offense. Hopefully if the time comes, my job is going to be to go in there and try not to let there be a drop-off in the offense.”
Looking to get back on track
Greg Jennings has been limited to just six catches over the past three games, and the fifth-year wideout admitted to having some frustration with his recent lack of production.
“I have never been an, ‘I, I, me, me’ guy, and my guys know that, the team knows that,” Jennings said. “But when you are not able to perform to your level and you have really no control of it, it is frustrating.
“But at the same time, I am going out there every single play, competing every single play, regardless if the ball is coming my way or not, making sure that I am perfect in my assignments and I am sound in my assignments and my performance. When I do get the opportunity, I am able to make the plays and not let my lack of production distract my performance.”
Jennings went through a similar stretch last season, catching just five passes over a three-game span early on (Weeks 2-4), but he followed that up with 18 receptions over the next three games. Green Bay’s offense as a whole has struggled late in the past two games, failing to post a second-half touchdown vs. Detroit or at Washington.
“I think the frustration develops when we have so much talent and no one is really being productive,” Jennings said. “As a whole, we are not performing, even with our basic standard plays, we are not performing to the level that we are capable of performing. That’s on us. That is where it is disappointing.
“We always fall back on, ‘Well, we need to call these plays and we need to do this and we need to do that,’ but we’re not doing the simple things right now and that is all across the board. It’s not just myself or Aaron or the running backs or the O-line, it is every position. Obviously with the drops, it is us too. We all have to pick up the slack to get where we want to be and get this offense rolling the way it should be.”
Safety Derrick Martin, who sustained a knee injury late in Sunday’s game at Washington, was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday. The opening created on the 53-man roster was filled by linebacker Robert Francois, who was signed from the practice squad.
Linebacker Nick Barnett (wrist) and Jermichael Finley (knee) are out for Sunday’s game. Barnett underwent surgery Wednesday morning while Finley had his surgery on Tuesday.
Rodgers, tight end Donald Lee (chest), linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), defensive end/nose tackle Ryan Pickett and tackle Mark Tauscher (shoulder) did not participate.
McCarthy said Lee was showing improvement, but that the next two days would factor in heavily as far as his chances for playing on Sunday. McCarthy said he didn’t expect Matthews back at practice until Friday at the earliest, and that a decision on his availability for the Miami game would likely go through the end of the week.
Cornerback Sam Shields (calf), who has been sidelined the past two games, practiced fully for the first time since sustaining his injury. He said he was hopeful he will be back on the field this Sunday, but has to wait and see how his injury responds to practicing. Fullback Quinn Johnson, who has missed the last two games with a glute injury, also returned to practice as a full participant.
Linebacker Brandon Chillar (shoulder), tackle Chad Clifton (knee), safety Nick Collins (knee) and defensive end Cullen Jenkins (hamstring/hand) were limited participants. It was the first time Chillar has practiced at all since getting hurt at Chicago in Week 3.
For Miami, tackle Jake Long (knee) and defensive end Jared Odrick (ankle) were limited participants in practice on Wednesday. Linebacker Channing Crowder (ankle) was a full participant.
Additional coverage – Oct. 13