Injured Calf Increases Rodgers’ Challenge

Aaron Rodgers was listed as limited participation on Wednesday but, in reality, little has changed since last week with his injured left calf. That injury only raises the degree of difficulty in beating the NFL's best defense.

When the Green Bay Packers stepped inside the Don Hutson Center last Wednesday to get ready for Dallas, quarterback Aaron Rodgers stayed inside Lambeau Field to rehab his injured calf. He was listed as did not participate on the injury report.

On Wednesday, when the Packers started their on-field prep for this week’s NFC Championship Game at Seattle, Rodgers was listed as limited participation.

That big change on the injury report, however, doesn’t mean a big change in how he’s feeling or the day’s workload.

“About the same as last week,” Rodgers said of his Wednesday.

When told about the injury report, Rodgers said: “Let me revise that: a little bit more than last week.”

Coach Mike McCarthy didn’t know if Rodgers’ improved practice status was “an indicator” of anything with the injury, and Rodgers said his strained left calf feels “pretty similar” to last week.

While the Packers got past Dallas with a limited Rodgers, doing the same against a Seattle defense that ranked No. 1 in points allowed, yards allowed and passing yards allowed will be a much, much bigger challenge. In picking apart the Cowboys, Rodgers attacked a below-average secondary. With Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, there’s nothing remotely below average about Seattle’s secondary. Against Dallas, Rodgers operated an offense in the relative silence of Lambeau Field. Against Seattle, Rodgers will have to direct an offense at raucous CenturyLink Field. Against Dallas, Rodgers worked in a cocoon as his superb offensive line easily held off Dallas’ weak pass rush. With defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett coming off the edge and helped by that noise, Rodgers might not be able to simply stand in the pocket and scan the defense.

“I didn’t have to do a whole lot (of moving around) because of the protection,” Rodgers said. “It’s just a matter of playing within your limits with the injury, and I’ve been pretty smart about it. I haven’t really caused a whole lot of extra damage to it, and hopefully it just keeps getting better till Sunday.”

Seattle is expecting nothing less than Rodgers’ best, especially after watching him destroy the Cowboys in the second half.

“Yeah, he only threw for 316, geez. That's a tremendous accomplishment,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He's been a great player for a long time, and the great players have a way of figuring it out, you know, and how to adapt and get it done and still play. That's part of why they're great -- whatever it is, the resourcefulness to figure out the situations. They adapted. He did fine. Yeah, he didn't take off, he didn't have to scramble, but he moved beautifully on the touchdown pass that he threw. Both of them as a matter of fact, he moved well on. He looks hampered somewhat, and we've seen him at his best over the years that we've known him. You know, they figured out a way to make him effective, and we're counting on him to be right on the money with all their offense and all the things they want to do, and if it's different, we'll adjust from there.”

When healthy, Rodgers’ movement skills are one of his best assets. By moving around in the pocket, he could not only negate some of Seattle’s pass rush but give his receivers time to get open. A limited Rodgers, however, might be stuck in the pocket more often than not, which will only increase the challenge of beating the renowned Legion of Boom secondary. Thus, pass protection will be paramount.

“There’s not that many second- and third-reaction plays like we’ve had in the past,” Rodgers said. “The touchdown to Richard (Rodgers) was kind of a second-reaction play. The line is giving me time. There might be some opportunities for that, but there’s just not going to be as many run-out-of-the-pocket plays like that.”

Even with a healthy calf, the Packers would be facing an uphill battle to turn around the 36-16 loss at Seattle in Week 1. In that game, Rodgers didn’t throw a single pass in the neighborhood of Sherman. The Packers kept Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb away from Sherman but it didn’t help, as the Packers mustered only 175 net passing yards and 255 total yards.

Can Rodgers be a magician and beat Seattle with one healthy leg? And can the injured calf survive if Rodgers is forced to move more than periodically?

After the Dallas game, Rodgers spoke optimistically that his injured calf had another “120 minutes” of football left in it – meaning the NFC Championship Game and the Seattle. He didn’t back off of that on Wednesday.

“I just hope we don’t go to overtime.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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