GREEN BAY—Aaron Rodgers has not been medically cleared to play on Sunday against Atlanta but he hasn’t been ruled out of that game yet, either.
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday that Rodgers would practice on a limited basis on Wednesday, with Matt Flynn taking the starter’s reps at quarterback as Green Bay looks to end a five-game winless streak and keep its playoff hopes alive.
“Aaron wants to play. There’s no question about it. But it’s a medical situation,” McCarthy said, referring to the collarbone Rodgers broke on Nov. 4. “He has a clear understanding of where he is, as far as the process of getting back on the field. He feels good, and we’ll see what he can do tomorrow.”
McCarthy also dismissed media reports that the Packers might hold Rodgers out for the rest of the season, even when he’s healthy and if the team isn’t in the playoff hunt.
“That’s an external opinion. There have been no internal conversations about shutting Aaron Rodgers down,” McCarthy said. “Aaron wants to play. When he’s healthy, he’ll be given the opportunity to play.”
If Rodgers cannot play on Sunday, the decision to go with Flynn over Scott Tolzien comes down to his game experience and comfort within the offensive system. McCarthy acknowledged that Flynn hasn’t really had a full week of practice reps to prepare as a starter, with the work week prior to Thanksgiving so light and abbreviated.
Last Thursday’s loss in Detroit was the Packers’ ninth consecutive game since their bye week, a stretch that “taxed” the team. Players were given the long weekend off, returning for strength and conditioning work and meetings on Tuesday.
Right tackle Don Barclay and center Evan Dietrich-Smith have been battling knee injuries, but McCarthy sounded optimistic both could practice this week. He added that receiver Randall Cobb hasn’t been medically cleared to return to practice yet.
The offensive line has been in flux for several games, and the return to the original starting unit in Detroit didn’t last long when Dietrich-Smith exited with his knee injury in the first half.
“I think the time off has helped everybody,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we’ll get back to the line that we were a couple weeks ago.”
Without using the phrase, McCarthy essentially admitted his team’s performance hit rock bottom in Detroit. The offense didn’t surpass 100 yards until late in the fourth quarter, and the defense gave up more than 230 rushing yards for the second straight game.
In going through the grades, the defense’s four takeaways and Mason Crosby’s 54-yard field goal were the only plusses against the Lions. Everything else was graded as a “negative” in all three phases of the game.
“I’m not going to sit up here and make excuses,” he said. “We had 20 missed tackles. I don’t know how you think you’re going to play good coverage football, on special teams or even run defense, when you have that many missed tackles.”
The current 0-4-1 stretch has put the Packers’ season on the brink. Rodgers or no Rodgers, a change in fortune is needed come Sunday.
“Disappointed, frustrated, whatever word you want to use, that’s how I feel,” he said. “We’ve been playing this way now for a number of weeks, and we have not handled the challenges that our opponents have put in front of us.”