GREEN BAY – While Aaron Rodgers certainly appreciates what Justin Tucker did for him and the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, the Baltimore Ravens kicker’s 61-yard game-winning field goal to beat the Detroit Lions – and thereby give the Packers control of their playoff destiny – won’t influence whether the Packers quarterback returns to the field Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Because of Tucker’s kick, the 7-6-1 Packers now know that they simply have to beat the Steelers and then beat the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in their Dec. 29 regular-season finale to win the NFC North title, and get the playoff berth and first-round home playoff game that comes with it.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean Rodgers, who hasn’t played since fracturing his left collarbone Nov. 4 against the Bears, will push any harder this week than he did last week to play.
Of course, Rodgers pushed quite hard to be allowed to play, so don't expect him to be any less adamant this week, either.
Nevertheless, Rodgers failed to convince team physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie and coach Mike McCarthy to allow him to play last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, then watched as backup Matt Flynn rallied the team from a 26-3 halftime deficit to win, 37-36. It matched the biggest comeback in the franchise’s 93-year history.
“It's amazing that we're sitting here 7-6-1 with a chance to win two and be in [the playoffs],” Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday. “Not only that, but win two and be in and maybe be the (No.) 3 seed.
"[But] I don't think it (the Packers’ playoff positiion) really influences my thought process any more than playing last week and wanting to be out there last week did.”
Rodgers practiced on Wednesday and Thursday, sharing first-team snaps with Flynn, but when he was scanned on Thursday and he, McKenzie and McCarthy discussed the scan’s results Friday morning, they decided that Rodgers would not play against the Cowboys. Rodgers admitted he protested the decision before accepting it.
“I felt good in practice, and a decision was made about my status that was made collectively but more on an organizational level, which I understood,” Rodgers said. “[That] doesn't mean I was happy about it, but understood."
However, Rodgers later said that, as has been the case throughout this process, a discussion of risk vs. reward will occur. And there is certainly a clear-cut potential reward on the table: A playoff berth.
"I think the decision last week, based on the evidence we saw, was definitely in my best interest," Rodgers said. "[But] I think there has to be on some level a risk-reward conversation. You have to base that off of the evidence you see on the scan, but also how I'm feeling and if I'm able to do normal football movements without pain. That obviously goes into the equation.
"Now a few weeks ago, that wasn't in the equation because I felt pain. Last week, I felt more like myself, I think the guys would say I looked like myself out there and I knew I was closer."
Meanwhile, Rodgers made it clear that he was still very appreciative of Tucker’s kick, thanking him first thing on the show.
“I'd like to thank Justin Tucker off the top here for his performance last night,” Rodgers said to open the show. “Unbelievable. That 61-yarder was amazing. I didn't quite get the three previous plays [the Ravens ran offensively], but … Wow."
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