“I’m feeling a lot better than I did Sunday obviously after the game,” Rodgers said. “It’s just a matter of how I feel tomorrow.”
Rodgers returned to practice on Thursday on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday while still going through the testing process. Rodgers suffered a concussion on his final pass in overtime last Sunday in Washington when he took a helmet-to-helmet hit. The pass was intercepted, setting up the game-winning field goal for the Redskins.
Rodgers did not speak to the media following the game but confirmed on Thursday that had the Packers’ offense gotten the ball back, he would not have returned to the game and he would have been replaced by backup Matt Flynn.
When Rodgers came to work on Monday for the usual film review sessions and meetings, he began the post-concussion testing process. It involves, among other things, taking the ImPACT Test, a computerized concussion evaluation system. All players take the test prior to training camp to establish baseline results, and then their results following a head injury need to return to those baseline levels before they are cleared to practice or play.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy said that Rodgers is being, and will continue to be, monitored like any other player returning from an injury as the week goes on.
“I thought Aaron practiced well today,” McCarthy said. “He threw the ball well.
“We’re going to watch him closely, just like we always do. But he felt fine and I communicated with him during the course of practice.”
Part of the NFL’s protocol is for a player to be cleared by an independent doctor not associated with the team, and Rodgers has received that clearance as well. The process is extensive and took multiple days for Rodgers’ test results to be where they need to be, but he expressed his appreciation for the protocol the league has put in place to enhance player safety.
“The NFL, with the way they’re treating concussions now, and the seriousness of the situation, it’s important I think that you go through the proper steps,” he said. “It’s a process.
“It’s a number of memory tests and vision tests and those kind of things. I’ll be honest with you, if you’re in a concussed state or not, it’s a difficult test. I would challenge all of you guys to take the ImPACT test, and see how you do, because it’s recalling words and numbers and squiggly lines and stuff. It definitely tests to see how your brain is functioning, and it’s interesting to look at the Monday results compared to the Tuesday results. There was definitely a jump as I started to feel better on Tuesday into Wednesday.”
Rodgers admitted to not feeling entirely normal as the game progressed in Washington, and he said the helmet hit on the final play “increased” the sense that something wasn’t right.
“But I don’t feel I was in a state where I was harming my team being on the field,” he said. He did not specify a certain point or hit that may have affected him, and he didn’t address whether his strong start and decidedly changed performance – he completed 13-of-16 passes on the Packers’ first four possessions and 14-of-30 on the remaining 11 drives – was related to how he was feeling.
He did stress that he’s not going to take chances with his future health. Rodgers has started every game since taking over as the starting quarterback in 2008, a run of 37 straight regular-season contests.
It’s a streak that’s important to him, especially on the heels of Brett Favre’s league-record streak of starts from 1992 through 2007 in Green Bay. But as he’s gone through this process and studied the issue a bit, he understands that superficial “toughness” NFL players are expected to display can’t rule the day when it comes to the long-term health of his brain, though it was almost natural for him to be tempted to take that approach initially.
“I think early in the week there’s definitely … the thought process is, ‘Well, I’m playing regardless,’” he said. “But I think as you start to understand the severity of an injury, a head injury is really like no other injury. I think you really have to go through the process. There’s been a number of guys in the past few years and in the news. This has been a big topic between the NFL and its players – the handling of concussions and post-concussion syndrome and the different things that players have dealt with down the road.
“So I think when I started to really look into more information about this, that’s when the severity of this injury hit me and I realized, you know what, I’d love to be out there on Sunday for my guys, but I have to get cleared, and this has to be a process where I’m completely honest with our medical staff and they’re honest with their assessment of how they feel I’m reacting and improving or not improving. Thankfully, I felt better Tuesday, felt better Wednesday, felt good this morning, and I’ve been cleared.”
The Miami Dolphins are the team that brought the “Wildcat” formation to the modern-day NFL in 2008, having a running back take a direct snap to either run the ball, hand it off to someone else, or even throw it. Other teams have since employed it as well, but it’s the Dolphins who would potentially run it more than any other team in a given game because they’ve done so consistently over the last two-plus seasons.
“I think the fact that they pretty much started it, they kind of have it down pat more than anybody else I would say,” Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop said.
This year their Wildcat hasn’t been all that productive, however. In four games, Miami has run the Wildcat a total of 16 snaps, including one that was not an official play because of a holding penalty, and gained just 22 yards (12 net yards with the penalty). Running back Ronnie Brown has been the recipient of the direct snap each time and has run the ball himself 12 times. He has handed it off three times and thrown one pass, which was incomplete.
Miami’s long gain this season out of the Wildcat is just 6 yards, a run by Ricky Williams. Including the penalty and incomplete pass, the Wildcat has produced zero or negative yards on eight of those 16 snaps.
Have opponents caught on? The Dolphins certainly make all their foes prepare for it, and the Packers are no different, putting in their share of work against the Wildcat this week. The Packers did see a handful of Wildcat-like plays in Week 1 from Philadelphia when Michael Vick was taking the occasional snap for starting quarterback Kevin Kolb, but then Vick became the regular quarterback in the second half of that game.
From the Packers’ perspective, it’s the running-back combo of Brown and Williams that makes Miami’s Wildcat work. Brown is a quick, shifty runner while Williams is more of a powerful, bruising back, and seeing both of them in the backfield at the same time will keep the defense on its toes.
“I expect guys that make quick cuts, get up the field and can break a few tackles and make guys miss,” nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “It’s imperative we’re constantly running to the football.”
In addition to Rodgers practicing, the good news on the injury front for the Packers was that tight end Donald Lee (chest) returned to practice on a limited basis.
The bad news was that linebacker Brandon Chillar (shoulder) had a setback after practicing on Wednesday and had to sit out Thursday. Also, defensive end Mike Neal (shoulder) and cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) were added to the injury report.
Considering Woodson’s history, his limited participation in practice is probably nothing to be alarmed about. Neal wasn’t able to practice at all on Thursday, though, after a sore shoulder from last Sunday’s game apparently got worse after practicing on Wednesday.
With defensive end Ryan Pickett (ankle) missing practice for a second straight day, and fellow end Cullen Jenkins (hand/hamstring) limited again, the defensive line is the biggest concern injury-wise as far as one position group. Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson may both need to be active on Sunday.
“We’ll work our way through it,” McCarthy said. “Still have a couple more days.”
The rest of the Packers’ injury report remained unchanged from Wednesday. Linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) and tackle Mark Tauscher (shoulder) sat out, tackle Chad Clifton (knee) and safety Nick Collins (knee) were limited, and cornerback Sam Shields (calf) and fullback Quinn Johnson (glute) were full participants for the second straight day.
For the Dolphins, tackle Jake Long (knee) was upgraded from limited to a full participant, and cornerback Benny Sapp was added to the report as a non-participant but it was not injury related.
Linebacker Channing Crowder (ankle) was a full participant again and defensive end Jared Odrick (ankle) remained limited.
Additional coverage – Oct. 14