Packers expect Aaron Rodgers will return against Seahawks, but Matt LaFleur will have Jordan Love ready just in case
GREEN BAY – After the hardest regular-season week in his time as the Green Bay Packers' head coach, Matt LaFleur will do something this week he’s never done before in his career.
LaFleur will craft a game plan that will be prepared in practice all week by one quarterback, in hopes a different quarterback can execute it Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers is eligible to return to the team Saturday if he is asymptomatic after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. That would put him 10 days past his positive test. Because Rodgers is unvaccinated, protocol agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA mandates he must be out at least 10 days and be without symptoms before returning. An independent doctor also must clear Rodgers before the Packers can activate him from the reserve/COVID-19 list.
It gives the Packers and Rodgers little wiggle room to return for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. So while their preference is for Rodgers to return by that date, and play in that game, LaFleur knows it is possible Jordan Love will make his second career start Sunday against Russell Wilson.
As he builds a game plan for Rodgers, LaFleur must also be aware Love might run it instead. He said there must be a “healthy mix” of plays they’re both comfortable running.
“I have never been through this situation,” LaFleur said. “So it will be a great learning experience for all of us in terms of how we communicate it, how we go out there and execute it. Certainly, there could be a situation where we have some specific plays for either quarterback, but I would say by and large when you’re preparing, you’re preparing both of them for the way you want to attack a certain defense.
"I think a lot of it comes down to, situationally, what you do in terms of third down, red zone. Just because Jordan hasn’t had maybe the same experience with a lot of those plays as Aaron, but I think it’ll be a healthy mix of you’ve always got to prepare for either guy to be available.”
If Rodgers plays, how he returns after missing last week’s game and a full week of practice would be the least of the Packers’ worries. He is a three-time MVP in his 14th season as starter. Rodgers does not need the practice to play at a high level.
Rodgers also is notoriously demanding of his teammates on the field. It is in practices through game week when the quarterback and players around him get on the same page. LaFleur acknowledged that will be a challenge without Rodgers practicing this week.
“Because I know there’s times where he’ll have conversations with certain receivers, or whoever it may be,” LaFleur said, “about just how he anticipates a certain route run. But I do think the communication will be crystal clear. We’ll make sure he’s involved in everything we do.”
More:Packers quarterback Jordan Love 'really disappointed' with first NFL start
More:On a day full of NFL surprises, the Packers' loss to the Chiefs went pretty much as expected
More:Special-teams misadventures bedevil Packers once again in loss to Chiefs
Rodgers is able to be closely involved with the game planning virtually through Zoom meetings. That will enable him to have input on what plays LaFleur includes on his menu this week, important for all quarterbacks. The issue is a lack of time on the practice field.
LaFleur said he’s considering reorganizing his practice week, accounting for Rodgers’ potential return Saturday. He could allot more time to practice one day before the game, giving his quarterback and offensive teammates time to share the field together before playing the Seahawks.
However, the coach could also opt to keep the same schedule, a lighter Saturday designed for players to be at their freshest entering gameday.
“It’s about the entire team,” LaFleur said, “and making sure our guys are fresh when we go out there and play. I don’t think anybody’s fresh at this point in the season, but as fresh as we can be, and go out there and execute at a high level.”
Russell Wilson shows hustle in return to face Packers
The Packers’ game Sunday against the Seahawks is shaping up to be the return of two Pro Bowl quarterbacks. While the Packers anxiously await news on Rodgers, Seahawks quarterback Wilson has officially been cleared to return to action from a finger injury.
Early Monday afternoon, Wilson posted a video chronicling his recovery, alongside his wife Ciara. The video even included a shot of the longtime Seahawks quarterback warming up at Lambeau Field.
Focus on faulty special teams
After another disappointing day on special teams, LaFleur knows the unit will demand his attention this week.
“Absolutely, we address everything,” LaFleur said. “Anytime things don’t go the way you want them to go, or you have mistakes, you’re always addressing those and you’re always correcting those. We have to get it fixed.”
The Packers had a missed field goal, blocked field goal and muffed punt that gave the Chiefs field position inside the red zone. The latter resulted in a Kansas City field goal. In the six point loss, the nine-point special teams swing was detrimental. LaFleur said after the game Sunday that the laces were not correct on either field goal snap.
“Certainly the operation on P.A.T./field goals has got to be better,” he said, while also addressing the blocked field goal. “We have to do a better job of protecting to give our, to give us a chance to score some points.”
On the other end of the field, rookie Amari Rodgers muffed the aforementioned punt that led to to a Chiefs recovery and subsequent field goal. It was painful, but also a learning experience, said LaFleur.
“You got a young returner back there—and I’m not trying to make excuses for anybody. We have to be better. We all know that. But, you know, those are learning experiences.
“If you can’t field a ball, you gotta call everybody off, because that cost us three points. You gotta make sure if you fair catch a ball, you catch. If you can’t get to it, you have to call everybody off and let them know. And I think that was a situation Amari thought he could get to it and wasn’t able to.”
LaFleur said the news on cornerback Eric Stokes (knee) is “nothing we’re too concerned about long term. But we’ll see where he’s at as we progress through the week.”
Stokes suffered a knee injury in warm-ups before the game.
As for defensive lineman Kenny Clark (back), LaFleur said, “Not long term but again, as far as this week, I really don’t know at this point.”