Pete, Wes and Ryan discuss the matchup between the Packers and Cowboys and what to expect Sunday at Lambeau Field. (Jan. 5, 2014) Weston Hodkiewicz, Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has seen Aaron Rodgers play through injuries before and isn't worried about his quarterback's ability to do it again this Sunday against Dallas.
The Packers quarterback underwent treatment on his injured left calf in lieu of practice during the bye week, but McCarthy said Rodgers had some "hip in his hop" when the team returned Monday. His practice regimen will be determined in a Wednesday meeting with team doctor, Patrick McKenzie.
McCarthy said last week that he didn't anticipate Rodgers practicing until at least Thursday, but was optimistic when asked about this week's outlook.
"I'm not concerned," McCarthy said Monday. "Look at the way he played in the second half of the Detroit game. He's learned to play through different situations. He has continuity with his teammates. So I think you've got to be in-tune with that. But, hey, the way he progresses, he's a quick healer. He jumped out there last week and was playing normal football there until the injury. So I think he'll be in pretty good shape come Sunday."
Rodgers proved his resolve to McCarthy in his fifth game as the Packers' starting quarterback in 2008. He was limited all week after spraining his right throwing shoulder in Tampa Bay, but still played the following week against the Atlanta Falcons after being cleared during a game-day workout inside the Hutson Center.
McCarthy told Rodgers he wouldn't call any deep throws until the quarterback was comfortable, but vividly remembers telling his first-year starter to go downfield on an early third-and-1 play. The Packers lost 27-24, but Rodgers finished with a 109.4 passer rating off 25-of-37 passing for 313 yards, three touchdowns with an interception.
Green Bay will be counting on a similar performance, but hopefully a different result against the Cowboys.
"I'm not worried about Aaron," backup quarterback Matt Flynn said. "He played pretty well last game, and he was ailing pretty good. So he's got two weeks to get it right, and he's confident about it. I think we all feel pretty confident in him."
Offensive coordinator Tom Clements echoed McCarthy in saying Rodgers has a history of overcoming injury. In fact, he played some of his best football in 2008 in the weeks following the shoulder sprain.
The biggest question Rodgers will have to answer is how the calf will affect his mobility, which could jeopardize his ability to extend plays and test the Dallas secondary deep.
McCarthy installed more pistol formations to help alleviate some of that potential pressure, while Eddie Lacy (230 total yards) and the offensive line have stepped up in the last two weeks.
Whether Rodgers practices Wednesday, it seems unlikely he'll take his full assortment of snaps. While fewer reps won't necessarily make his job any easier, his coaches and teammates are confident he'll adjust accordingly.
"It's a big challenge for Aaron," McCarthy said. "I think Aaron was brought up the right way. He likes to practice. He enjoys the competition of practice. Brett was the same way. As a coach, your quarterback has a responsibility to practice because to me the head coach and the quarterback control the tempo and the energy of practice.
"So when you have your star quarterback out there competing at a very high level every single day, competing at everything, it makes the whole practice environment better. With that, that's what he's used to. He doesn't miss practice. I know he wants to practice but we need to be smart. Dr. McKenzie and Aaron and the rest of the staff, we'll talk it through and make an educated decision."
-- firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod