GREEN BAY – The last time Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a calf injury late in the 2014 season, he took part in a little bit of the first practice of the week and then a good deal more the second day.
Then he went out on Sunday against the Detroit Lions and tore the muscle some more throwing a second-quarter touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, causing him to miss the rest of the first half and about five minutes of the second.
The calf bothered him all the way through the NFC championship game.
Two years later, coach Mike McCarthy looks to be taking no chances.
Even though Rodgers appears certain he’ll be ready to run any plays McCarthy calls, the coach gave him Wednesday off. And he’ll probably make him sit Thursday, too. With no practice Friday, Rodgers will have had five days of rest and rehab before the final workout of the week.
“I’m feeling better,” Rodgers said Wednesday. "I appreciate the time to rehab. With an injury like this, it’s really about maximizing rehab time. So I got to get a couple extra hours there with the training staff. It was good.”
In 2014, Rodgers pulled his left calf on the fifth play of a 20-3 victory over Tampa Bay. An orthotic was placed inside his left shoe to relieve pressure on the calf and he was able to finish the game. Staying pretty much in the pocket, he completed 31 of 40 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown.
In the 38-10 victory over Seattle last Sunday, Rodgers strained his right calf muscle on the third play of the game, a 66-yard touchdown throw to receiver Davante Adams. He didn’t scramble a lot, but still able to move nimbly around the pocket, he played his best game of the season, completing 18 of 23 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns (150.8 passer rating).
McCarthy gave Rodgers a head start on healing by removing him from the game early in the fourth quarter.
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Rodgers did not attend the abbreviated Wednesday practice McCarthy held inside the Don Hutson Center, spending the hour and 50 minutes his teammates were on the field treating his calf in the training room.
“I'll probably do the same thing tomorrow,” McCarthy said. “We have a plan. Game plan-wise, his comments were just, 'Don't hold anything back.' So we're approaching this game no different than we did last week."
McCarthy did scrap a portion of the game plan after Rodgers got hurt against the Seahawks, but Rodgers’ message was that the coaches should plan for the Chicago Bears on Sunday as though he’ll be 100 percent, and if they need to cut back on some things, they will.
The part that is unpredictable is whether Rodgers will do anything during the game to aggravate the injury. Even if he feels loose and able to move around, McCarthy can’t afford to have him missing time against the Bears because the Packers (7-6) pretty much are in a must-win situation.
The forecast is calling for temperatures around zero and wind chills well below that, which isn’t exactly ideal for someone with a muscle pull. Rodgers can do some pregame preparation and apply heat packs when he’s on the sideline, but nature is a force and only so much can be done to protect against it.
“I think some things that you forget about sometimes is you still have to hydrate in the cold, actually even more,” Rodgers said of his prep. “So it’s a good reminder we’ve had the past couple years with (nutritionist) Adam (Korzun), just trying to be smart about your fluid intake.
“The conditions obviously affect the field, the surface. It’s going to be important to get out there and make sure you’ve got the right cleats on, make sure you’re getting your body warmed up.”
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Rodgers has the benefit of going through this once before. He can remember which throws caused him to aggravate the calf more, although in this case he’s dealing with his plant leg instead of his follow-through leg.
McCarthy may be able to help him by avoiding some plays that cause him to make sharp cuts, like a bootleg fake or a sprint out. On the other hand, McCarthy may feel as though he’s dealing with an elite athlete and doesn’t need to baby him, especially if he sees what he needs to see in practice.
He recalled a game in 2008 when Rodgers had to go down to the Don Hutson Center before a game against Atlanta to test out a bruised shoulder. The two agreed that McCarthy would hold back on a third-and-1 shot play that was in the game plan, but he got caught up in the moment and called it in the first quarter.
“As soon as I called it, I can see, like his head looks at me, and I'm like 'Oh, I forgot all about it,’” McCarthy said. “I think it was to Donald (Driver), he comes back and just rips it and then obviously it was complete and we just went from there. So you learn to go through things, most importantly what he can do.”
Because of the cold temperatures and strong winds expected Sunday, McCarthy may have to rely more on his running game anyway. But a big advantage he has over the Bears is a quarterback with big hands and a strong arm and he needs to make use of it when he can.
Rodgers said he is ready to deal with whatever pain comes with throwing the ball.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of injuries over the years, and you just learn about pain management and how to keep yourself in the best shape to play on Sunday, and then playing with pain,” he said. “Obviously, I hurt it on the third play of the game and had to gut it out through some very difficult pain speaking to me at times and obviously slowing me down with some of the stuff I’m good at, moving in the pocket or outside the pocket.
“It’ll be about pain management on Sunday, but the good thing is I’ll be out there. I’ll be out there and ready.”