GREEN BAY, Wis. – Ready or not, Aaron Rodgers will start for the Green Bay Packers at Minnesota.
After a relatively mediocre performance vs. Seattle last week following his COVID-19 isolation and not practicing on Wednesday or Thursday because an injured toe, Rodgers practiced on Friday.
“He was limited today. He looked good throwing the football. I’m confident that he’ll be in a good place on Sunday,” coach Matt LaFleur said.
Rodgers wasn’t at Wednesday’s practice but at least was present on Thursday, the biggest practice of the week and one that features third down. He did participate on Friday, which has a red-zone emphasis.
“It’s interesting. It’s different,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said on Thursday of preparing without the starting quarterback taking reps. “I think it’s a great opportunity for Jordan (Love) to be able to develop, and it’s much better to have Aaron in the building; that’s been great. So, it’s just one of those things you’ve got to keep grinding, you’ve got to make everybody else is prepared and ready to go for when Aaron gets out there.”
After beating the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, Oct. 28, the team reconvened for practice on Monday, Nov. 1. Rodgers was part of that practice but tested positive for COVID a couple days later. So, he missed the practices on Nov. 3-5, didn’t play at Kansas City on Nov. 7, then missed the practices on Nov. 10-12. He cleared the COVID protocol on Saturday and threw for just shy of 300 yards in Green Bay’s 17-0 victory.
That made Friday’s practice his first in about two-and-a-half weeks.
“It’s not super-significant” that he hadn’t been practicing, quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy said on Thursday, “because of all the reps that we’ve already had and the training we all have in and the communication that we have. He’s out there. He’s having the same communication that he would as if he was throwing that ball or the reaction of a receiver making a decision based upon the look that’s presented. They’re having those same conversations, which is ultimately the most important thing for us to be effective. I think those conversations are happening. We’re all on the same page. I can remember in ’14 when he hurt his calf. I don’t think he practiced like ever and he still was able to go out and play really well each week.”
The Packers, who are tied for first place in the NFC, need that level of Rodgers for Sunday’s game against the Vikings and next week’s game against the Los Angeles Rams that precede the long-awaited bye.
Green Bay’s scoring average is down 10.2 points compared to last season. The Packers are hoping that Rodgers taking part in meetings all week will be worth more than the practice reps that went to Jordan Love.
“Just his presence, it’s amazing. It just takes everybody to another level,” Hackett said. “When you’re around those great players, they make everybody around them better even if they’re not playing because they all know he’s watching, and so I think that definitely has an effect on all the players around. Just his personality, just how he keeps things light but at the same time he calls people out. Just a great personality to be around the guys.”
Rodgers enters the game ranked ninth with a 101.9 passer rating, which is great by most standards but well behind his MVP form from last year. This will be Rodgers’ 25th regular-season start vs. Minnesota. He’s thrown 50 touchdowns vs. seven interceptions, good for a passer rating of 108.5. He is 14-9-1 in those games.
“I think it’s more little details,” Rodgers said on Wednesday when asked what’s holding back the offense. “If you watch the film back, we had multiple mental errors and just little detail things that we didn’t do very well, and those need to get cleaned up for sure. As far as the timing, I don’t know if there was a lot of timing issues that we had, it was more of the details and in the schematics that we didn’t do very well on Sunday.”