Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) gives the thumbs up to fans as he leaves the field following the team's 20-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Phelan M. Ebenhack
December 24, 2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Newly picked to the Pro Bowl, Aaron Rodgers practiced on his sore left calf Wednesday before returning to a locker room full of Christmas gifts.

Brand new 55-inch curved screen televisions sat in cardboard boxes, tokens of appreciation from the Packers' franchise quarterback to the offensive line and backup QBs.

As if the linemen needed any more motivation to protect Rodgers from the fearsome defensive front of the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

''It's pretty amazing. Pretty thankful that Aaron did something like that,'' rookie center Corey Linsley said. ''I mean, just the way he plays, and the way everybody plays around here, the level of excellence especially by him - you want to play as well as you can for him.''

Keeping Rodgers clean and upright will be especially important with tackle Ndamukong Suh leading Detroit's defensive charge into Lambeau Field.

Rodgers was limited in practice with a sore left calf that he strained during Sunday's win over Tampa Bay. He is also getting over a lingering head cold that has slowed him down since last week.

Coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers took snaps and threw the ball around, including in no-huddle drills.

''He basically got done what he needed to get done today and he's getting better,'' McCarthy said.

How Rodgers feels Sunday will be most important to Green Bay, which can claim its fourth straight NFC North title and a first-round bye by beating Detroit.

Otherwise, the Packers were mostly healthy at practice. Guards T.J. Lang (ankle) and Josh Sitton (toe) were limited, as usual, with lingering injuries. Linebacker Clay Matthews was limited with a biceps injury, though that has been a lingering injury as well.

Sitton and Matthews were also picked to the Pro Bowl roster Tuesday night, along with receiver Jordy Nelson and fullback John Kuhn.

Sitton has had a painful season after injuring his left big toe two months ago against New Orleans. This will be his second Pro Bowl. In 2012, though, he made it as an alternate.

Sitton said he can cross one of his career goals off his list. What makes Sitton's season even more impressive is that he's playing between left tackle David Bakhtiari, a second-year player, and rookie center Linsley.

''It doesn't surprise me at all. We watch a lot of film of a lot of guys, and I haven't really seen anybody better,'' Linsley said. ''I say it all the time, but something that goes understated is how intelligent he is.''

Now they've got to figure out how to stop Suh, who has 8 1/2 sacks, four in his last three games. Lang called the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Suh a complete player.

''If he's in there, it's a battle from whistle to whistle, from snap to the whistle,'' Lang said.

The Packers' right guard was also fighting what appeared to be a cold. He'll likely relish Christmas Day off while trying to find a place for the new television supplied by Rodgers.

The players apparently didn't know that reporters would be in the locker room on Christmas Eve. The TVs arrived Tuesday night, and the ever-private Rodgers likely didn't want people outside the team to know about the gifts, Sitton said.

''He's a hell of a dude, and we've had a hell of a year for each other. He just wanted to thank us,'' Sitton said. ''We appreciate being appreciated.''

Notes: Nelson made his first Pro Bowl, while Kuhn made his second. Rodgers has made four Pro Bowls, while Matthews has one more appearance. ... LB Mike Neal (abdomen) was limited in practice, while CB Davon House did not participate. He hasn't been cleared from a right shoulder injury.


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