Rodgers fights through pain

A morning workout in The Don Hutson Center was enough to prove he could play against Atlanta. Doug Ritchay reports from Lambeau Field.

When Aaron Rodgers woke up Sunday morning, the Green Bay Packers quarterback had no idea what he was going to be doing around noon at Lambeau Field.

After missing basically all the practice time last week with a sprained shoulder, Rodgers' Sunday morning workout in The Don Hutson Center was going to determine if the first-year starter could push his starting streak to five games.

So, he was there around 8:30 a.m. with coach Mike McCarthy, among others, throwing passes to see what the banged-up shoulder had in it. Afterward, it was determined Rodgers would start against the Atlanta Falcons.

"To be honest, I was a little surprised how I was able to throw," Rodgers said of his workout. "I didn't know if I was going to be able to make a throw to prove that I was going to be able to play."

And outside of a critical interception, Rodgers performed admirably, completing 25-of-37 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns (109.4 passer rating), although the Packers lost 27-24.

Rodgers was asked to describe his experience.

"Definitely painful," Rodgers said.

Nevertheless, he knew pain was going to be a hurdle Sunday, as well as Atlanta's defense.

"I felt confident I was going to be able to deal with the pain," said Rodgers, who didn't use painkillers to downgrade the pain. "I was told before the game I couldn't reinjure it if I played."

That is, if Rodgers didn't take a direct hit to his shoulder. That was tested on his first play, when 350-plus-pound Grady Jackson sacked Rodgers and fell on him. Rodgers got up no worse for the wear and moved on.

He admitted he didn't have his fastball Sunday, but he had enough to record a complete game. Rodgers' most impressive completion was a touchdown pass to Donald Driver that covered 44 yards.

"I wasn't sure I was going to be able to throw it that far because I only threw it about 40 yards in the morning warm-up," Rodgers said. "I gave that one everything I had."

Meanwhile, Rodgers' bum shoulder affected him on a throw in the third quarter. While scrambling right, Rodgers threw to the left side of the field about 30 yards to a wide-open Greg Jennings. Rodgers wasn't able to throw it far enough, though.

"I don't like making excuses," Rodgers said. "I ran out of arm on that one."

Later, with the Packers trailing 20-17 with less than 5 minutes left in the game, Rodgers was faced with a third-and-19 from the Green Bay 21. As Rodgers surveyed the field, he couldn't find an open receiver, but he rolled the dice anyway and forced a pass, knowing the Packers needed a score.

It was Rodgers' only mistake of the day, but it was big. He was intercepted by Michael Boley, who returned the pass to the Packers' 19. Three plays later, the Falcons administered the knockout punch with a touchdown, giving them a 27-17 lead.

"I felt like I played pretty well outside of the critical error that cost us seven points," Rodgers said.

McCarthy agreed and said the quarterback made an impression with the team.

"Aaron Rodgers stepped up today," McCarthy said. "He was an injured player that didn't practice all week and he stepped up large today. He didn't throw with the velocity that he's capable of throwing, but I thought he did a great job managing the game and he was just smart with the football today."

Rodgers said missing practice last week might become a routine for the near future. He said he may have to take the same approach as the Packers prepare for next week's game at Seattle. He also said he doesn't know if the injury will linger.

"We'll probably have a similar schedule as last week," Rodgers said. "We'll treat it around the clock."

So, Rodgers impressively displayed his toughness Sunday, and it was a step taken in the Rodgers' era, despite the outcome. His performance may not be an all-timer when we look back on his career, but it was reminiscent of somebody else who used to play the position for the Packers. No matter the adversity, he always came through for the Packers.

You know, oh, what's his name?

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to He has covered the Packers since 1993. E-mail him at

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