If Aaron Rodgers would have been healthy at the end of last season, the Green Bay Packers might very well be entering this season as defending Super Bowl champions.
However, Rodgers injured his left calf at Tampa Bay in Week 16. With his mobility taken away, a stationary Rodgers managed to lead the Packers past the Lions in Week 17 and the Cowboys in the divisional playoffs. The season ended with an overtime loss at Seattle. Had Rodgers been healthy, could the Packers have done better than 1-of-3 in the red zone and 3-of-14 on third down to put the game away early?
“I was a pocket quarterback at the end of last year because of the injury,” Rodgers said on Thursday, one day shy of eight months since sustaining the injury. “I’m back to playing the way I like to play, which is to extend plays when I can and get rid of it when I need to. But I have an opportunity to escape the pocket and create a different angle, then I’m going to. It’s nice to be back. I trained hard this offseason to keep the speed and keep my body in shape where I can have the endurance to have multiple plays like that in a game. And it definitely adds a different element to our offense.”
Beyond Rodgers’ limited mobility, the injury had an obvious impact on coach Mike McCarthy’s play-calling and game-planning.
“There’s two ways to throw the football,” he said before Thursday’s practice. “You either drop back and throw it or you have some type of action passing game. The ability to move the quarterback is something that definitely stresses the defense, and his ability to play on the move from not only in the drop-back phase but also in the quarterback movement phase and the keeps and the nakeds and things like that is obviously a big part of how we would like to play.”
Rodgers hasn’t had any issues in training camp and was able to extend plays in Thursday’s preseason opener against New England. He’s worked hard to get back to his two-time MVP form.
“I had zero doubt going into the game,” Rodgers said. “I spent the entire offseason training really hard and went through the OTA practices and the IPWs and had no issues. This was a significant calf injury but we’re talking about 8 months later. I have zero inhibitions out there and I’m playing the way I want to play.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.