It's All Mental As Rodgers Heals

If quarterback Aaron Rodgers is going to play vs. the Patriots on Sunday night, he'll have to get by on experience rather than preparation. Rodgers did not practice again on Thursday and apparently hasn't been cleared to participate in meetings, either.

If Aaron Rodgers is going to be under center on Sunday night when the Green Bay Packers square off against the New England Patriots, a lot rests on the quarterback's mental capacity after suffering a concussion last week at Detroit.

On Wednesday, coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers wasn't even participating in team meetings, much less practicing. Rodgers didn't practice on Thursday, either, and while McCarthy dodged a question on whether Rodgers was at least sitting in on meetings or watching film, judging by the unchanged state of Rodgers' locker, it doesn't appear he was at the facility again.

"He's been doing very minimal football-related work," quarterback coach Tom Clements said on Thursday. "It's more the testing and the resting. We'll see what happens beyond today but so far it's been minimal."

Rodgers was injured when the back of his head slammed into the Ford Field turf at the end of a second-quarter scramble in which he elected not to slide. It's his second concussion of the year, with the other coming at Washington in Week 5. McCarthy said Rodgers is "making progress" and said nothing has changed in regard to Rodgers' "slim-to-none chance" of practicing on Friday. A decision on whether Rodgers will play against New England will be made on Saturday.

"I think it will be clear by the time we travel to New England what we're going to do as far as Aaron Rodgers is concerned. I don't want to take this to the game. It's not going to be a game-time decision," McCarthy said.

If Rodgers is going to play – and play well – in a huge game for the Packers' sagging playoff hopes, he'll have to be sharp mentally against Patriots coach Bill Belichick's fast-improving defense. By now, the game plan is installed, they've faced scout-team defenses for two days and the players have seen hours upon hours of film, either in the meeting room or the living room. It doesn't appear Rodgers has been cleared to do any of that mental work.

Potentially, Rodgers could line up on Sunday night without a single snap of practice. He did that in his first season as the starter, when he injured his throwing shoulder against Tampa Bay in Week 5 of the 2008 season, didn't practice all week and played well the following Sunday against Atlanta, with 313 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a 109.4 passer rating. The difference, though, is Rodgers was in the meeting room and watching film. This time, if he plays, he might have to get by on a crash course on the game plan and the Patriots' tendencies and hope his 46 career starts (including playoffs) would carry him through.

"He could do it but it would be harder. He'd have a lot to catch up on," Clements said.

With the state of the game's most important position in flux, the coaches are plowing ahead with putting together a winning game plan, whether it's Rodgers or backup Matt Flynn. A seventh-round draft pick in 2008 who led LSU to the national championship as a senior, Flynn doesn't have Rodgers' physical tools but the coaches insist he has the complete skill-set.

"I'd say minimal," Clements said on how the game plan would change with Flynn in the game. "When Matt went into the game last week, we didn't scale back what we had in for Aaron. He executed those plays. That's what his training has been in for three years is those plays. There might be a little different emphasis here or there on what Matt would do as opposed to Aaron, but our offense is still intact and we'll execute it."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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