There was no way to prepare the first time Aaron Rodgers strained his calf muscle.
Three weeks ago in Tampa, the Green Bay Packers quarterback tore his calf on the fifth play. Suddenly, a game plan had to be amended on the fly, tailored to protect the best player in this franchise. Afterward, coach Mike McCarthy admitted he could've handled his pop quiz better.
Rodgers isn't the only one learning more about the limitations of his calf injury. Each week, McCarthy has learned how to manage a game and call plays around those limitations.
Together, the quarterback and coach will have to strike a delicate balance between being careful and staying aggressive when Green Bay travels to Seattle for the NFC championship game Sunday.
"That's experience," McCarthy said. "So it's an experience he'll be able to draw from. I think our planning has gotten better going through this process."
Rodgers' calf will not be healthy Sunday. His mobility will be limited, as it's been since Tampa. He'll be a pocket passer, unable to extend plays and create when protection breaks down.
But there are signs Rodgers is healing, however slowly. He was listed as limited on the injury report Wednesday. Last week, he didn't practice until Thursday.
Rodgers didn't expound on his calf injury Sunday. He admitted he did "a little more than last week" with his preparation, but no further details. As for
"I do everything that the medical staff tells me to do, and supplement it a little bit," Rodgers said.
Rodgers' lack of mobility would seem to put him at a significant disadvantage Sunday. Seattle is the NFL's best defense, and it plays inside the loudest stadium in CenturyLink Field. Still, Rodgers has had no problem defying logic over the past three games.
Since injuring his calf, Rodgers has thrown for six touchdowns and no interceptions. He's completed 77 percent of his passes in two games, two 300-yard games. Maybe most impressive, Rodgers' lowest passer rating was 108.1. He had a 139.6 rating against Detroit and 125.4 rating against Dallas.
Even with his injury, Rodgers has managed to play like the best quarterback in the league. Teammates trust he'll be the same in Seattle.
"He makes this team unbelievable," left tackle David Bakhtiari said. "When he gets the ball in his hands, he's the best player in the game. So of course you want the best player in the game to be on the field."
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