Aaron Rodgers' return raises bar for Packers teammates
GREEN BAY - As afternoon gave way to evening Tuesday, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson interpreted the silence like thousands of others on social media. There had been no announcement about the return of Aaron Rodgers, and perhaps that meant the decision didn’t go his way.
“When I saw the tweet I was surprised, to be honest with you, especially by the time it happened Tuesday night,” Nelson said. “I figured they had made the decision beforehand. It shocked me."
Of course, Nelson is referring to the tweet from Rodgers at 9:16 p.m. It linked to a post on Instagram in which the quarterback announced the news the Packers were hoping for: Team physician Patrick McKenzie had cleared him to play. His surgically repaired collarbone was doing just fine.
The Packers returned to practice Wednesday as half a foot of snow whitewashed the city. Rodgers resumed his role as the starting quarterback and took reps with the first-team offense inside the Don Hutson Center. His teammates said it felt like Rodgers never left.
“It’s great to have him back,” Nelson said. “He’s the leader of the team, controls a lot of things on our offense, and his play on the field speaks for itself. It’s great to have him back, great to have him healthy. I’m looking forward to it. … What he can do on a football field is very special. It will be great. We just have to make sure he stays healthy.”
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“He looked good,” wide receiver Randall Cobb said. “Obviously he's been out there for a while (the last two weeks). Just getting back into the swing of things. He commanded the offense like he always does and got us in and out of the huddle and making sure practice flowed like it's supposed to.”
“Things pick up a little bit,” wide receiver Davante Adams said. “I think the intensity, the pace of the game, I think everybody has to be a little bit more aware because of some of the sly things he does, some of the small things that you have to be ready for. (It) kind of keeps everybody’s antenna up.”
The initial excitement of each interview quickly shifted to more serious as the Packers grapple with the reality of their playoff chances. To have any shot, they must win three games against teams that have a combined 26 wins this season. And even then, even if they run the table over the next three weeks, Nelson said he saw a statistic that gave the Packers an 86 percent chance of making the playoffs.
“We need to do our part, and that’s all you can worry about,” Nelson said. “That’s starting this week. It helps (having Rodgers back), but it definitely is not going to make it easy.”
Eight weeks without Rodgers were enough to understand his importance to the offense and the team in general. His stellar play in recent years has masked certain deficiencies that were exposed with Brett Hundley under center.
The dichotomy of playing with and without Rodgers prompted certain pundits to label the Packers a one-man team. But the irony of Wednesday was that everyone acknowledged Rodgers can’t win these next three games on his own.
“We all have to play,” Cobb said. “He's not walking on that field by himself. I know everybody — he's the greatest out there, but he can't win by himself. He knows that. He relies on us, and us as teammates, we're going to continue to do everything we can to put this team in the best position to win and give us the opportunity to keep going.”