Packers notes: Awkward tackle sets Aaron Rodgers back

Jim Owczarski, Ryan Wood and Tom Silverstein
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the tackled by Detroit's Christian Jonesduring the first half at Ford Field on October 7, 2018 in Detroit.

GREEN BAY - Aaron Rodgers had been gradually progressing in the management of his left knee injury suffered in Week 1 against Chicago, adding practice days to his weekly schedule and changing his knee brace from a robust model to a lighter, less-bulky one leading into the game against Detroit.

Then, Rodgers was tackled awkwardly on the Packers’ sixth play of the game by Lions linebacker Christian Jones. Jones brought Rodgers down by his left shoulder, bending Rodgers’ upper body back over to the left side while Jones fell on the left ankle. After the game, the Packers’ quarterback said he was sore following the play and acknowledged Thursday it slowed him up at the beginning of his San Francisco preparation.

“Yeah, kind of a setback last week, the beginning of the week,” Rodgers said. “Got to be in the rehab group again (Thursday), got a lot of good work in with (director of rehabilitation) Nate (Weir) and just hoping I get back out there tomorrow and have a feel-good Friday and a practice (Sunday) and be good to go — hopefully back to where I was in Detroit.”

As for the support he’s had on that left knee, Rodgers hopes he won’t have to go back to the bigger model he started out with.

“I hope not,” he said. “The goal would be to wear the same brace I wore last week, but I have a lot of faith in our training staff, and we’re going to put the brace we feel is most safe and allowing me to do exactly what I’m able to do on Monday.”

High-stakes game

Nobody inside the Packers' locker room wants to slap a “must-win” tag on a game before November, but there’s clear urgency entering Monday night’s game against San Francisco.

One week from their bye, winning Monday is more important than just avoiding having to sit on a loss for an extra week. At 2-2-1 through five games, there’s good reason for urgency against a 49ers team that is toothless after losing starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

“We’re not going to label this a must-win game,” outside linebacker Clay Matthews said, “but we’ve got to get this. We’ve got to prove something to ourselves, and obviously heading into the bye week after dropping a divisional game, we need to get this.

“This is one that we definitely need to get.”

The schedule does the Packers no favors after their bye. They’ll start a grueling five-week stretch with consecutive, cross-country road trips to the Los Angeles Rams followed by the New England Patriots. The combined record of the Packers' five opponents immediately following their bye is 15-9-1. Only one of those five teams has a losing record, and that game comes in Seattle, perhaps the toughest venue to play in the NFL.

The following five opponents to end the season are a combined 9-15. Only one (Chicago) has a winning record. The other four (Arizona, Atlanta, New York Jets, Detroit) either have the worst record in their division, or are tied for worst.

But that final stretch doesn’t start until December. It’s a long way away, even longer considering the first five games out of the bye.

So if beating the 49ers (1-4) isn’t a must, the Packers certainly can ill afford to lose Monday.

Slow but sure

Guard Justin McCray is taking part in warm-ups, walk-throughs and individual drills, but when it comes to full contact, he’s on the sidelines.

Until the pain in his left shoulder subsides, McCray said he’s prohibited from team drills, so he’s doing whatever he can to stay in football shape. McCray has missed the last two games, although he was active for Detroit, but only as an emergency replacement.

The medical staff has told him he can’t do further damage to the shoulder by playing, but he said he would not be 100 percent and that veteran Byron Bell is holding down the spot very well. So, there’s no reason to make him play in severe pain.

“I’m going to feel it for a while,” McCray said. “It’s hard to put a number (of weeks) on it. As long as I can’t play the way I want it doesn’t do the team any good to be back there. I’m just trying to get it all the way back so I can play.”

McCray, who wears a brace when he practices, said he’ll need surgery after the season.

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