Hits on Rodgers Growing Concern

The MVP candidate admittedly got rocked by Jared Allen. He'd rather not get hit, but "I'm a quarterback, and I think taking hits sometimes makes me feel like more of a football player." Plus, injury reports and more from Wednesday.

Because of his outstanding athleticism, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a major threat to make plays with his legs, whether it's extending plays in the pocket or running for first downs.

The 23 sacks Rodgers has absorbed — sixth-most in the league — are troubling enough. After all, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's stated goal for the entire season was 24. Big hits like the one dished out by the Vikings' Jared Allen on a 3-yard scramble during the first possession of the third quarter on Monday are particularly alarming.

"I got up pretty quick and asked Jared if that was all he had. He rocked me pretty good," Rodgers said.

"I'm not trying to take any of those hits," he added. "I didn't see Jared on that one when he rocked me. I'm a quarterback, and I think taking hits sometimes makes me feel like more of a football player. Obviously, your goal is to not take any shots that rock you, kind of like that one I took there in the third quarter."

Nonetheless, Rodgers said he's "feeling good," even though the Monday game means there's one fewer day for the aches and pains to go away.

Still, as the obvious leader of the offensive pack and the leading candidate to be league MVP, the Packers would like to limit the number of times he's getting hit — and eliminate the big shots that lead to injuries and turnovers. Still, he's been getting tackled more and more. In the first three games, Rodgers was sacked five times and rushed 10 times. In the next three games, Rodgers was sacked seven times and rushed 17 times. In the last three games, Rodgers was sacked 11 times and rushed 16 times.

"I don't like the hits he took Monday, obviously. He was hit too much Monday," coach Mike McCarthy said. "But that's part of the game and part of the way we play. The protection breakdowns were kind of spread around, and we'll continue to work through that. We're going to be challenged every week. We're playing Tampa Bay this week, and they have an extensive pressure package, more than we saw last week. (They are an) uncommon opponent. We spend a lot of time in our blitz pickup work, and we can do a better job."

Neal progressing

Defensive end Mike Neal hasn't been ruled out from making his season debut on Sunday. McCarthy said Neal took part in a "number" of team reps.

"Yeah, as long as he progresses, he has an opportunity to go through team reps and earn a spot on the 46, yeah," McCarthy said. "If he's ready to play and we feel he gives us what we need, then he'll be up on Sunday. But once again, we're going through this, try to give him more each day and see how he responds."

Packers injury report

Out: LT Chad Clifton (hamstring). Did not participate: LB Desmond Bishop (not injury related); RB Ryan Grant (knee); G T.J. Lang (not injury related); OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring). Limited participation: OLB Clay Matthews (ankle); DE Mike Neal (knee); G Josh Sitton (knee). Full participation: S Morgan Burnett (hand).

Bishop and Lang were absent for personal issues. On Twitter, Bishop said his grandmother had died, and Lang asked fans to keep his father in their prayers. Grant sustained a lacerated knee on Monday that required a few stitches. He should be fine for Sunday.

Buccaneers injury report

Did not participate: DT Albert Haynesworth (knee); S Tanard Jackson (hamstring); DT Frank Okam (calf); LB Dekoda Watson (groin); TE Kellen Winslow (not injury related). Limited: DE Michael Bennett (groin). Full: QB Josh Freeman (right thumb).

Four-point stance

— Rodgers leads all players in Pro Bowl voting, with his 589,801 votes about 52,000 ahead of second-place Tom Brady. The Packers lead the NFC voting at almost every position: fullback John Kuhn, tackle Chad Clifton, guard T.J. Lang, center Scott Wells, kicker Mason Crosby, inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, cornerback Charles Woodson, free safety Morgan Burnett and special-teamer Jarrett Bush. Greg Jennings is second among the receivers and sixth overall.

The fan vote is being done at nfl.com/probowl. Fans, coaches and players each count for one-third of the total vote.

— When Jordy Nelson caught 122 passes for Kansas State as a senior in 2007, the quarterback was Josh Freeman, who was Tampa Bay's first-round pick in 2009. "He's everything he was when he came in," Nelson said. "He has a huge arm, smart kid, that was his goal. He came in as a true freshman and started. That was his goal when he came out of high school, and he wasn't going to wait anymore. He wanted to get rolling. He's intelligent, strong-armed, athletic, a ginormous kid. I definitely knew he'd be productive at this level."

— McCarthy, on individual players' film study: "I'm a big believer that the middle of the week is the grind. You have to prepare for your opponent. Players today are a lot like my kids; they're so advanced from a technical standpoint. I still like a piece of paper to write the notes down. A number of our guys have their computers so there's a lot of film that goes out on their personal computers — Aaron Rodgers, in particular. He has everything on his computer. There is a point in the week, and it's on Friday for us, we have the 48-hour rule. That 48-hour rule is when you walk off the field, mentally you have to switch gears to the Green Bay Packers and it's not about the opponent anymore. We're not talking about the opponent once Saturday rolls around. We're talking about ourselves. It's my philosophy."

— Former Packers running back Kregg Lumpkin handles the third-down role for the Bucs and has 21 catches. "He's done a great job for us, man," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "He's come down here and really done a nice job in our protection system. He brought a lot of carryover from Green Bay and he brought a lot of things to our program. He's certainly elevated his position here. He's become our third-down protector and our third-down pass receiver/catcher guy. He's also shown an ability to go out and run and play special teams for us. We're really proud of what he's been able to do for us and all the dynamics that he brings to us. He brings a professional attitude every single day, and that's all I can ask for out of the young man."

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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.

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