GREEN BAY—While Aaron Rodgers rests and rehabs his injured calf, his Packers teammates are honing their individual games.
That’s the long and short of the Packers’ two practices scheduled this week, the first of which was held Friday after the players had three days off.
They’ll practice again on Saturday before returning to game-plan mode next week in preparation for their NFC divisional playoff game at home on Jan. 11.
“Just trying to stay sharp as we wait to see who we’re going to face next week,” said veteran Julius Peppers, who added that the team felt “rejuvenated” after its short break. “You’re always going to focus on the fundamentals and the little things that turn into big things on game day.”
Not knowing whether their playoff opponent will be the Cowboys, Cardinals or Panthers until Sunday night affords the Packers the rare in-season opportunity to concentrate on themselves in practice rather than on a game plan.
Part of Friday’s practice was conducted outside in the cold, and Mike McCarthy termed the work “excellent.”
“When you get tired, the first thing that goes is your technique,” rookie center Corey Linsley said. “To take a couple days like this and not really have to prepare for a game, and work on fundamentals, it pays dividends.”
The Packers are practicing for now without Rodgers, who won’t see the practice field until Thursday at the earliest, according McCarthy.
Rodgers said his calf is “slowly progressing,” and neither he nor McCarthy expressed concern over the practice reps he’ll be missing.
It’s not the ideal situation, of course, but Rodgers feels he’s on track to return to the field next week to get the snaps he needs.
“The rhythm is established, the play style is established,” Rodgers said. “It’s really working on the checks and kind of going through the plan. That’s why you need to practice.”
Rodgers’ teammates also aren’t worried about their leader. They noted that practice is definitely different without him, and there’s an adjustment to having Matt Flynn run the offense instead, but it’s all for the right purpose.
“I think that’s what everyone really cares about is he’s feeling as good as he possibly can when (next) Sunday rolls around,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “So if he needs to take as many days off as he needs, he can just go ahead and do it and make sure that calf is ready to go.”
Added running back Eddie Lacy: “We know we’re going to get the best A-Rod when he steps on the field, whether he practices or not. He’s just that guy, and he knows we’re behind him.”
Also missing Friday’s practice were receiver Jordy Nelson, who was excused for personal reasons, and linebacker Sam Barrington and cornerback Demetri Goodson, who were ill.
Cornerback Davon House, who has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury, was practicing, but it still remains to be seen whether he’ll be medically cleared for full contact in time for the playoffs.
“I feel good all the time, no setbacks,” House said. “Every day it’s been getting better, getting stronger. Just waiting.”
Saturday’s practice will be longer and in pads.
“I look for us to turn it up a notch tomorrow,” McCarthy said.