GREEN BAY - Despite Aaron Rodgers’ public throwing session during pregame warm-ups Sunday at Heinz Field, the Green Bay Packers are not focused on a potential return to practice for their star quarterback, according to coach Mike McCarthy.
Rodgers, who was placed on injured reserve in late October after undergoing surgery on his broken collarbone, is eligible to practice later this week. Players on IR can return to practice six weeks from the day they were moved off the 53-man roster, and they are eligible to play after eight weeks.
Since the Packers do not practice on Fridays, the first chance for Rodgers to return to the field would be Saturday.
“We’ll see,” McCarthy said when asked if Rodgers will participate in practice this week. “I mean, he’s still going through — there’s a protocol, there’s targets we’re trying to hit each and every week. I think they’re working (on it), and it’s segmented. The A, No. 1 priority is to get him healthy. Practice is not something we’re really focused on right now.
“We have no decisions for you today. Once again, there’s a step-by-step process. I have nothing to give you today. I’m more focused on game-planning for the Buccaneers. There’s a plan laid out for Aaron, just like the other guys on IR. He’s knocking it out of the park, he’s going at it 120 miles an hour. We’ll see what the end of the week brings.”
Rodgers caught the eyes and camera lenses of thousands at Heinz Field on Sunday when he launched footballs in excess of 40 yards during a pregame workout. He threw passes to strength and conditioning coach Mark Lovat on a breezy and chilly day in Pittsburgh.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” McCarthy said. “I mean, think about it: You’re on a rehab process and the ability to throw in an opponent’s stadium, so no, everything that they’re doing is calculated between the training room, the strength and conditioning room and Aaron. As you would imagine, he’s going at it 120 miles an hour, and so far so good.”
It’s possible the Packers could receive another boost this week from tailback Aaron Jones, who tore his MCL against the Chicago Bears this month. Jones is scheduled to be part of the rehab group before Wednesday’s practice, according to McCarthy, and will have a chance to rejoin the full team session if things go well.
“That’s the goal going into Wednesday practice, but we’ll see how he does,” McCarthy said.
Meanwhile, rookie cornerback Kevin King continues to be plagued by a shoulder injury that originated during his college career at Washington. King bounced in and out of Sunday’s loss to the Steelers multiple times after aggravating his shoulder in the first half. The injury is likely to hinder King throughout the remainder of the year, and there’s a good chance he will have an operation during the offseason.
The Packers turned to Josh Hawkins whenever King was sidelined Sunday night.
“Number one, you’ve got to look at what (King) is going through personally,” McCarthy said. “I can’t give him enough credit for fighting through what he has. There’s weeks where — he has to prove it each week in practice, and when he does that he’s afforded the opportunity to play. I think it’s a real credit for him to battle back each and every time.
“But going in and out of the game is a challenge for a defense, there’s no doubt about it. But Josh Hawkins has done some really good things and he’s a young, improving player in his second year. That’s just kind of the landscape of our league, you know? These injuries are a challenge for every team, and that’s something that we’ve had to deal with a lot this year.”