Aaron Rodgers got a taste of the difference between playing quarterback and calling plays as a coach last week against Detroit.
The Packers sat their Rodgers to avoid the injury risk, but to keep him fully engaged in the game mentally, coach Mike McCarthy had him radio in the play calls to Matt Flynn. That included having Rodgers decide on the plays when the Packers were in no-huddle, which they ran almost the entire first half.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” Rodgers said Thursday. “It’s a lot more nerve-wracking than playing, to be honest. Matt can attest to that. I was a little bit nervous in the locker room knowing that I was probably going to get a chance to get some calls in there. But when you’ve got a quarterback that’s in the zone and hot, it makes it a whole lot easier.”
Rodgers said his best play call probably was a screen pass to halfback Ryan Grant in the second quarter that came against a blitz and went for an 80-yard touchdown. Grant went untouched, perhaps in part because no offensive linemen tipped off the play by going out to block on the screen.
“(The lineman) didn’t quite hear the screen call, which actually turned out to be great,” Rodgers said. “We had two receivers blocking about three or four guys out there.”
Rodgers said he sometimes calls plays in the no-huddle when he’s playing, though McCarthy also can make them via the speaker helmet.
“There’s a lot of things that can distract you (as a quarterback) between those 40 seconds of each play,” Rodgers said. “It was fun. Me and Matt spent some time together making sure we were on the same page and knowing kind of what he was comfortable with. I don’t want to take too much credit because he played incredible. It wasn’t like I was out there making some amazing calls. I was making some stuff that he liked, and he made it work.”
Flynn set franchise single-game records for passing yards (480) and touchdown passes (six) against the Lions. He said his father, Alvin, who was a college quarterback at Baylor and his quarterbacks coach from childhood through high school, was at the game and afterward critiqued his play as he always has.
“Yeah, he was nit picky about it,” Flynn said with a laugh. “Just critiquing a couple throws I made. That was the first thing he said. He gave me a hug and then he started critiquing me.”
Bulaga, Clifton working back
Bryan Bulaga should be close to full strength next week in his return to right tackle, whereas Chad Clifton has more physical hurdles to overcome in his return to a likely starting job at left tackle.
Bulaga sustained a sprained kneecap three weeks ago at Kansas City and hasn’t played in a game since. He returned to practice last week but sat out the regular-season finale, and this week he practiced fully Wednesday and Thursday. The players are off until meetings on Monday, but Bulaga is staying in Green Bay for medical treatment and rehabilitation on his knee, and the next practice isn’t until Wednesday.
“That’s five, six days off to get more treatment, get some rest, do some other things for it that can make it feel as good as it can possibly get,” Bulaga said. “What percentage I’ll be Sunday, as close to 100 as I was before Kansas City, because it felt great before Kansas City. Now it’s a lot better than it was when (the injury) happened. I can move on it well, plant on it well, push off real well and have no pain.”
Clifton played 25 snaps against Detroit in his first game since injuring his hamstring Oct. 9 at Atlanta and subsequently injuring his back in late November. The Packers spent significantly more time on individual drills during this week’s bye than they do during the regular season, so Clifton went through a training-camp like regimen Wednesday and Thursday. He appears likely to start at left tackle next week, though McCarthy hasn’t announced it.
“(Wednesday) was a challenging practice for him,” McCarthy said. “Did a lot of movement drills – excessively. The individual positions had 20 minutes of individual time, which usually equates probably to 30-plus for the O-line because they get more time with (other players doing) the seven-on-seven drills and so forth. He’s had two full days of work. I know he was sore (Thursday), and it was good for him to go through the padded drills and also the team drills. I’m sure he’ll be sore (Friday).”
• Running back James Starks (ankle) was the only Packers player who missed practice Thursday. Center Scott Wells and inside linebacker D.J. Smith returned after sitting out Wednesday. Smith said he was ill Wednesday but felt fine Thursday. The Packers gave no reason for Wells’ absence. They don’t play this week, so they don’t have to reveal injury information.
• Guard T.J. Lang’s father died Thursday after an illness. In a tweet, Lang said: “Lost a great man today. RIP Thomas Lang Sr. I love you dad im going to miss you.”
• Reggie McKenzie, the Packers’ director-football operations, interviewed for the Oakland Raiders’ general manager position Wednesday, an NFL source confirmed.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.