Breathe easy, Packers fans.
The calf problem that has landed Aaron Rodgers on the injury report and limited him in practice on Wednesday will not be an issue for the quarterback come Sunday.
“It’s been a little tight, but nothing is going to keep me out,” Rodgers said during the weekly media briefing at his locker.
Nothing is going to remove the chip from his shoulder anytime soon, either. Rodgers responded to a small avalanche of criticism last week with a franchise-record-tying six-touchdown performance against previously unbeaten Houston, and he doesn’t sound like he’s done trying to “shush” the critics as the Packers try to win a second consecutive game for the first time this season in St. Louis.
“You just don’t forget about what was said before last week,” Rodgers said of staying motivated.
“I’ve always enjoyed that,” he continued, referring to playing with the proverbial chip. “It’s something that’s fortunately been a part of my career since I was a young player. You have to remember where you came from, have that perspective, and it’s always helped me out at different times.”
Rodgers’ performance, which included 338 yards and a 133.8 passer rating, certainly helped the Packers get their season back on track, but the reigning league MVP was also quick to credit everyone around him with stepping up their games as well.
Rodgers said the coaching staff put together a “very simple” game plan that gave players one-on-one situations, with limited adjustments, that they were counted upon to win. The offensive linemen and receivers in particular came out on top, and the result was six touchdowns in nine possessions.
That level of production without the offense’s top big-play threat in Greg Jennings, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury and did not return to practice on Wednesday, speaks even more to the efficiency and potential down the road.
“Greg was one of our biggest playmakers, but we all know more than enough guys in this room are capable of making plays if any of us went out,” receiver James Jones said. “That’s how we feel. We want to make the most of our chances, and when Greg comes back be even more powerful, put more stress on the defense.”
Jones has picked up the most slack, catching two TD passes in three consecutive games, a feat matched in franchise history only by the legendary Don Hutson in 1943. Jones’ seven TD receptions on the season lead the league.
Rodgers reiterated that he appreciates how well Jones is playing, and he also heaped praise on second-year wideout Randall Cobb, who turned in his first career 100-yard game in Houston with seven catches for 102 yards. Cobb is currently the second-ranked receiver on the team with 29 catches for 346 yards, behind only Jordy Nelson (32-410).
“That’s not going to be his last 100-yard game, I can tell you that much,” Rodgers said. “He’s a big-time player. Really conducts himself the right way. You have to appreciate his maturity, his class, the professionalism that he exudes. He really takes his job seriously. He asks the right questions, and he sees the game through a quarterback’s eyes.”
That comes naturally to Cobb, who played QB in high school and some in college as a “wildcat” type. Rodgers feels experience helps him understand defensive reads, route adjustments and the QB’s time clock better than a lot of players. Rodgers compared Cobb to Jennings in the sense of showing on the field and acting off of it as though he belonged in the NFL from Day 1.
Cobb said the biggest difference for him this year compared to his rookie season is the chemistry he’s developing with Rodgers, something the lockout last year didn’t afford them the chance to build.
“It’s hard during the week when you’re game-planning to talk to him about certain routes and certain coverages and stuff,” Cobb said. “But getting an offseason to work with him and see what he sees, and understanding what he’s trying to accomplish, and being able to relay what I see on the field to him, it was a great opportunity this offseason to do that.”
Rodgers isn’t going to pass up the opportunity to keep that going, sore calf or not. Rodgers thinks he injured the leg on his TD run in Houston that included a “belt” celebration but was called back on a penalty.
He joked that the events hurt his pride as much as his calf. Given last Sunday, opponents probably cringe at the thought of more wounds for Rodgers.
“Just getting older,” he said of his ailing leg and missed practice time. “Taking it smart.” Additional coverage - Oct. 17