Packers never considered starting Jordan Love so Aaron Rodgers could rest broken thumb
GREEN BAY – Even with a former first-round draft pick at backup, Matt LaFleur said he never considered resting Aaron Rodgers after the four-time MVP broke his throwing thumb this season.
Rodgers confirmed Wednesday he broke the thumb on his throwing hand during the final play Week 5 against the New York Giants. He has played six games, throwing more than 200 passes, since the injury. Rodgers’ completion percentage dipped five points, from 67 before breaking his thumb to 62 since. His passer rating declined from 95.7 before to 91.1 after.
Regardless, LaFleur said giving Jordan Love a start so Rodgers could rest his thumb a week or two was never a move the team contemplated.
“Aaron is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around,” LaFleur said, “in terms of just being able to battle through multiple injuries. So that never crossed my mind. It’s more or less the conversation in terms of how he communicates with us, and where he’s at. Certainly, I know he told you guys, he’s played through a lot worse. He’s old-school tough.”
LaFleur said the biggest challenge Rodgers’ broken thumb presented was how many snaps he took under center during practice. The Packers regularly rested Rodgers on Wednesdays, though he has become more present at practice in recent weeks. Rodgers practiced Wednesday and Thursday this week as the Packers prepare to play at the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.
While Rodgers dismissed his broken thumb as a reason for waning accuracy this season, LaFleur said the injury makes it “more difficult and challenge” for quarterbacks to throw. Asked if Rodgers’ misses on shorter throws this season, passes that have been virtually automatic for him in the past, is where the broken thumb has been especially problematic, LaFleur only said it could “potentially” be an issue.
“When you’re a quarterback, and you have something wrong with your hand,” LaFleur said, “it can create some obstacles. He’s seemed to maneuver around it for the most part pretty well.”
A bigger issue this week is a flu bug circulating the Packers locker room. Five players were on the injury report with an “illness” designation Wednesday. Kicker Mason Crosby, receiver Randall Cobb, safety Rudy Ford and rookie safety Tariq Carpenter returned to practice Thursday, though rookie offensive lineman Rasheed Walker remained out.
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LaFleur said the flu bug is “very similar” to the same illness that swept through the Packers locker room late in the 2019 season, which memorably prevented former right tackle Bryan Bulaga from starting in a playoff game that season.
“It seemed like everybody was getting sick,” LaFleur said. “But I think our medical staff is doing a good job of staying on top of these guys. If guys have – we’ve been testing them for everything – and if they have the flu, we’re keeping them out.”
New linebacker Justin Hollins practices
Justin Hollins had no trouble arriving in Green Bay from Los Angeles, even on Thanksgiving week.
"It was great," Hollins said. "Airport wasn't congested. It was way calmer. It was nice, man. And it's green out here, too."
The Packers claimed Hollins off waivers Wednesday, hoping to find reinforcements after losing Rashan Gary for the rest of this season with a torn ACL. Hollins had his first practice with the team Thursday.
A fifth-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2019, he spent the past three seasons with the Rams. He played under Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry with the Rams in 2020 when Barry was a linebackers coach.
LaFleur hopes the familiarity helps Hollins adjust quickly, giving the Packers reinforcements in the wake of Gary’s injury.
“I think he’ll have a quicker transition,” LaFleur said, “in terms of learning the terminology and understanding the basic concepts of the defense. So hopefully that will give him an opportunity to get out there a little bit quicker than maybe just some guy who hasn’t been accustomed to this style of system.”
Hollins said he's hoping to get some snaps Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"There's a lot of carryover," Hollins said. "Different terminology here and there, and of course he's going to put his own spin on things. So I've just got to adapt to that and get a good handle on that. It shouldn't be hard."
Rookie receiver Romeo Doubs rehabbed on the sideline during practice Thursday, a positive step in his return from an ankle injury. Doubs has missed the past two games after injuring his ankle early Nov. 6 during a loss at Detroit.
Tight ends Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis did not practice Thursday. Tonyan was out because of illness, while Lewis had a veteran’s rest day, as is customary for the veteran on Thursdays.
Inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell also missed practice because of his knee injury.
“He’s making progress,” LaFleur said. “It’s just every situation is a little bit different.”