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Packers will press NFL for explanation regarding hard hit on Aaron Rodgers

Jim Owczarski
Packers News

Sunday was a rough one for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in several ways, but he did take a hard hit to his midsection from Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. on a dive into the end zone in the first quarter.

Rodgers took off on a scramble and lunged toward the goal line, but as he extended Winfield Jr. spun the quarterback over with a hard right shoulder to Rodgers’ exposed midsection on his left side.

The quarterback got up immediately and celebrated what was ruled a touchdown while some of his teammates took exception to the contact. Winfield Jr. was flagged initially for unnecessary roughness, but that flag was picked up and it was determined Rodgers did not score by giving himself up on the dive.

Buccaneers defensive end Ndamukong Suh (93) sacks Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the second quarter.

“That’s one of the questions that we intend to get answered,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said Monday. “I don’t understand that rule. I don’t understand how if you’re going into the end zone you’re giving yourself up and you get hit that it’s not a flag. But, you know, that’s something we’ll get clarification on.”

Aaron Jones scored from 1 yard out on the next play.

Rodgers did not miss any snaps in the game due to injury, but he was sacked four times and hit a handful of other times throughout the contest.

“Yeah, he did get hit quite a bit,” LaFleur said. “I think he’s definitely a little bit sore (Monday) but I don’t see anything being too significant moving forward.”

Bakhtiari being evaluated

Immediately after Sunday’s loss, LaFleur was optimistic about All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari’s chest injury that knocked him from the game early in the second half.

On Monday, LaFleur said the team was “still getting him looked at. We should know more as the week progresses.”

Bakhtiari was injured after tripping over tight end John Lovett on a Jones run play. After he hit the ground Tampa Bay’s William Gholston, a 281-pound defensive lineman, dove on top of the Packers’ offensive lineman.

LaFleur did not address that aspect of the play Monday.

Bakhtiari has played in 48 straight regular-season games since missing five with a hamstring injury early in the 2017 season.

Veteran Rick Wagner, who started at right tackle in Week 2 against Detroit, was the next man up for the Packers behind Bakhtiari against Tampa Bay.

Since training camp when Billy Turner, Lane Taylor and Wagner competed for two spots on the right side of the line, LaFleur has insisted the best five linemen will play. He and offensive line coach Adam Stenavich followed through on that by starting Elgton Jenkins at right tackle in Minnesota and then Wagner against the Lions to give Turner’s injured knee an extra week to heal.

Lucas Patrick has taken over at right guard for an injured Taylor, though Jon Runyan Jr. got work there against Minnesota and Detroit due to injuries to Patrick and center Corey Linsley, which forced Patrick to play center.

Rodgers, Suh renew rivalry

Rodgers and Ndamukong Suh had not lined up across the line of scrimmage from one another since Oct. 28, 2018 when Suh was a member of the Los Angeles Rams, and that Rams’ 29-27 victory went by without incident between the pair of All-Pros.

It was the first time the two had seen each other on the field since Dec. 28, 2014, a Packers’ 30-20 victory in the regular-season finale in which Suh stepped on Rodgers’ leg two times – actions that led to the defensive tackle being suspended for the Lions’ following playoff game.

Perhaps, then, water had passed under the bridge.

But Sunday, Suh shoved Rodgers to the ground for a late hit that was nullified by intentional grounding. Then Suh ended the first half with a sack of the quarterback.

Fox broadcast cameras caught the pair chatting quite a bit after those plays.

“As far as what Suh and I were talking about, that goes back a long time,” Rodgers said after the game. “I’m sure the cameras caught some stuff. Perhaps slightly more cordial in the second half, but I didn’t see him after the game.”

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) points at Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Ndamukong Suh (93) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Tampa, Fla.

Blowout blues

Including the playoffs, the Packers are an impressive 18-5 under LaFleur, yet when they lose, they lose big. Real big.

The Packers’ average margin of defeat is a robust 19.2 points, with a 34-27 defeat at the hands of Philadelphia last season at Lambeau Field the closest. The other four games have come on the road to the Los Angeles Chargers, twice at San Francisco and now at Tampa Bay.

“Every other game that we’ve lost has just been kind of a butt-whuppin’,” LaFleur acknowledged after the game. “So I think the one thing that you do learn from it and we were trying to stay with it is just, especially from an offensive perspective, is just staying with our game plan and not trying to drift away from it. Because I know that’s happened in the past and that’s when the game’s really gotten out of hand.”

Off the regular-season bye week, the Packers have lost 37-8 at San Francisco and 38-10 at Tampa Bay. The Packers beat Seattle 28-23 last season coming off a first-round playoff bye.

But, the Packers have followed up each loss with a victory and rattled off win streaks of four games, six games (including playoffs) and opened this year with four straight wins following their season-ending loss in the NFC title game.