GREEN BAY - Coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday he would not allow his Green Bay Packers team to feel overconfident even with quarterback Aaron Rodgers returning from a broken collarbone.
McCarthy said the big focus this week is getting the entire team to play better and not assume that the game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers will be easy with Rodgers.
“We've got to play better,” McCarthy said during his news conference. “That was my message to them today. I think our football team has done an excellent job of finding different ways to win. We're not going to go to Carolina with a bunch of false confidence.
“We understand the impact that Aaron Rodgers makes for our football team and, hell, the impact that he'd make for anybody's football team. He's a great player, he's an impact player. We're in a position that we're in. We're 7-6. We clearly understand what's on the line here. Carolina's in a similar position.
“This is a very, very important game for both teams. It's going to be a playoff-type atmosphere, and that's what we're getting ready for.”
McCarthy and the offensive coaching staff had to come up with two different game plans Tuesday, one for Rodgers and one for backup Brett Hundley, because they didn’t find out until late in the evening that Rodgers had been medically cleared to play.
McCarthy said Rodgers will be given every opportunity to get in step after an eight-week absence due to a broken collarbone.
The first step, however, was making sure the game plan matched the personnel.
“It was a challenge,” McCarthy said of preparing for the week. “Really, the timing of the decision was a stress on our offensive staff. I appreciate the extra work and the extra hours that they went through; (you) clearly understand you can only control what you can control.
“But we kind of operated in the mindset of two different types of game plans. How much was different is irrelevant.”
The process of integrating Rodgers back into the offense begins later this afternoon when the Packers head out to the Don Hutson Center for practice. Rodgers worked in team drills last week, but it was with the scout team since Hundley needed all the snaps with the No. 1 offense.
Rodgers will get all the No. 1 reps now, as well as some extra reps with his receivers to help rebuild their chemistry.
“Obviously, the procedure of coming off IR that happens later in the week, but he’s preparing himself for this moment and it’s kind of a normal Wednesday for us this time of year,” McCarthy said. “We spent the morning going back through some self-scout things, particularly corrections from the Cleveland game, and we can apply it to our game plan process for Carolina.
“So he’s preparing to play in the game.”
McCarthy was asked if Rodgers would be forced to play a less-reckless style given he’s playing with two metal plates attached to his collarbone.
“I think you have to play your game and that’s really as far as I want to get into the specifics of that,” he said. “You have to play your game. You look at the way they’re built. Their front seven is as good as we’ve played. This is an extremely good defense playing very well.”
As for practice, McCarthy said there was a lot to get done with Rodgers, who has been throwing since Thanksgiving but only started participating in team drills last week.
McCarthy has said getting Rodgers used to pass rushers being around him will be an important part of his preparation.
“We need to get to work. We'll have, we'll extend the individual time today. But he's been throwing. He's got what, four practices under his belt. He's been preparing for this Wednesday meeting for quite some time, this Wednesday practice for, you know, for a week now.
“I think it's obvious. He's human. He hasn't played football in quite some time. So, we're going to work on the specifics starting today in the classroom and the preparation phase of it and get on the practice field this afternoon.”