Rodgers Stars Despite Flu, Calf

The MVP-candidate quarterback figures he'll be OK for next week's showdown vs. Detroit, which will determine the NFC North championship. Rodgers, already battling the flu, sustained a calf strain on the second series. (David Manning/USA TODAY)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he’d be “OK” for next week’s game against Detroit, which will decide who wins the NFC North title and gets a first-round playoff bye.

“It’s too early to give a 100 percent guarantee but it would definitely take a lot to hold me out of that game,” Rodgers said after the Packers’ 20-3 victory over the Buccaneers.

Rodgers, who was battling the flu in the days before the game, sustained a calf injury on “play five, I think” against Tampa Bay. While he was limited by the double-whammy of sickness and injury, he still finished 31-of-40 for 318 yards, one touchdown and a 108.1 passer rating.

“It got really tight about halftime,” Rodgers said. “Came in and got a little treatment and it loosened up a tad but it was still pretty tight, and I had a hard time running. But I was able to move kind of in short segments in the picket, which was all I needed to do today.”

The injury impacted Rodgers’ ability to throw the ball on the run, a factor that should be closely watched when the Packers get back to work on Wednesday to prep for Detroit's league-leading defense. One play in which the injury was apparent was a third-and-4 in the second quarter. Rodgers scrambled to his right and fired a pass to Randall Cobb, who was open well beyond the first-down marker. Instead, the ball fell a couple yards short of Cobb, and Mason Crosby missed a 48-yard field goal on the next play.

“My calf kind of gave out there,” Rodgers said.

It also challenged Rodgers’ ability to hand off the ball, which is why the team ran so often out of shotgun and even the pistol, because lining up in the backfield reduced the number of steps required to get the ball to the running back.

“It was tough,” Rodgers said. “I didn’t think I could run very well. I was able to just kind of push through. The line did good job blocking so I didn’t really have to move a whole lot to get out of the pocket.”

Coach Mike McCarthy called Rodgers a “warrior” for playing — and playing well — given the circumstances. McCarthy said he adapted his game-planning to Rodgers’ injury though, in retrospect, he regretted not just “cutting him loose” more than he did.

“He makes a difference when you get him on the perimeter,” McCarthy said. “I was a little nervous about doing that.”

Regardless, Rodgers recorded his eighth 300-yard game — tying his franchise record — and 10th 100-rating game of the season. The Packers are 7-1 when Rodgers tops 300 yards.

“He played great,” said receiver Jordy Nelson, who caught nine passes and hauled in Rodgers’ lone touchdown pass. “Made some plays with his feet. He was a little banged up early and fought through it, and helped us and made plays for us. Obviously, he’s the leader of our team and we need him out there. So, it was great to see him get through it and, hopefully, healthy.”

Added Cobb, who caught 11 of Rodgers’ passes.

“He's a competitor. That's what I love about him. He's going to go out and he's going to give his best, no matter what. He's going to play through pain, he's going to play through sickness. It's just great to see a teammate going out there and putting his body on the line every down for you. It's just great to play with him.”

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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