On Thursday, Packers fans got a nice post-Christmas present. FOX Sports Wisconsin's Paul Imig reported that Rodgers will indeed start on Sunday for the first time since breaking his collarbone against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 4. Rodgers took all first-team snaps during practice open to the media for the first time since his injury -- something that's usually reserved for the starter this late in the week. ESPN's Rob Demovsky reported that Rodgers was the first-team quarterback for all drills but 11-on-11s, which the media was not allowed to see. Reports later indicated that Rodgers did indeed take the helm for all practice drills.
Without Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers are 2-5-1. Rodgers has been at practice for several weeks since the injury, and getting more reps as time goes on, but head coach Mike McCarthy has been tight-lipped about Rodgers' return timeline. There's no time like the present, as the 7-7-1 Packers have to beat the 8-7 Bears at Soldier Field in the regular-season finale if they want to win the NFC North.
And then, at his post-practice presser, McCarthy announced the good news.
"We're preparing for the Chicago Bears with Aaron Rodgers as our starting quarterback," McCarthy said. "Our goal coming into this week was to have this announcement Tuesday for our team meeting, but that did not happen. All the evaluation and communication was not concluded at that point. So, we waited to tell the team until today. We felt, obviously, that the first people who needed to know about it was our football team."
Rodgers said that it was "exciting to be back after a long layoff and a tough period. It's exciting to be back in the mix with the guys."
On Tuesday, Rodgers said that his recovery has been slower than anyone anticipated.
"I'm feeling better and not thinking about my injury at all," Rodgers said on his weekly ESPN Wisconsin radio show. "I think ultimately it comes down to, it's big on the medical side. Is the bone healed or is there a large risk of going back out there that's too great, that the organization would not want to put me out there?
"Obviously I want to be out there. I know what's at stake. This is an important week for us. We're somehow back in this position to be able to get into the playoffs. What a better way to do that than against the Chicago Bears?"
McCarthy said the same day that he and general manager Ted Thompson have been monitoring the situation closely.
“I think No. 1 for the football team and also Aaron Rodgers, I think it’s important for us to make a quicker decision. This has obviously been frustrating and stressful for Aaron, rightfully so, but also our football team. I want them to know who the quarterback’s going to be."
Rodgers told Jason Wilde during the show that he's not concerned about being rusty despite missing seven full games.
“I’ve been focusing on my conditioning a lot, doing some extra conditioning, making sure my wind is good. But it’s about taking the reps in practice and finding that timing and rhythm. I’ve played a lot of football, so I don’t think there’s a major hurdle to get over and to get back and be effective. To me it’s always come down to preparation. Do I feel confident in the plan, confident in my ability to execute the plan? If I do, then I expect to play well on Sunday.”
Since he became the Packers' starter in 2008, Rodgers had only missed one game due to injury, when he suffered a concussion in 2010. Backup Matt Flynn has completed 124 passes in 200 attempts for 1,392 yards and eight touchdowns, and has been intercepted five times in Rodgers' place this season.