It’s felt like an eternity for Packers fans, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers will return to the playing field this Sunday for the first time since breaking his left collarbone in Green Bay’s Week 9 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy announced during his morning press conference on Thursday that “It’s time for Aaron to play.”
You won’t find many members of the Green Bay faithful that disagree.
The seven-plus weeks of action that the Packers have been without Rodgers have certainly been interesting, as Green Bay skidded to a 2-5-1 record, including the 27-20 loss to Chicago in the game during which Rodgers was injured. Despite the public outcry and the general perception that Rodgers himself wanted to be out there, the Packers organization made the right move in keeping him out as long as it did.
The timetable for his return fluctuated wildly depending on what report you read, and the team benefited from some good luck provided by the poor play of the Lions and the Bears over the stretch run of the regular season.
I don’t think the fact that this is a de facto playoff game for Green Bay swayed the decision of the Packers medical staff and front office – well, at least not too much. Both the Dallas and the Pittsburgh games the previous two weeks were almost “must wins” for Green Bay, but the team stuck with backup Matt Flynn, and were lucky that a 1-1 record (and a miraculous comeback against the Cowboys) kept the team afloat within the division.
Because of that, it’s respectable how the team handled its star quarterback’s injury. Could the Packers have rushed him out there three weeks after the injury and hoped for the best? Certainly, but not without jeopardizing his long-term health and as a result, the success of the franchise for the next decade. If he can stay healthy, the 30-year old Rodgers could play, hopefully at a high level, for another 10 years. The team rightfully weighed the benefits of potential short-term success with the (greater) benefit of having Rodgers under center into the 2020s.
Of course, trotting Rodgers back out there for the regular-season finale doesn’t guarantee a spot in the postseason, much less a deep run in the playoffs.
But it’s been evident that the Packers’ medical staff put his health before the relative health of the team, which, in this day and age, is fine by me.
With a winner-take-all scenario on the horizon for the Packers and Bears in the NFC North this weekend, Green Bay will have the man McCarthy called “the best player in football” under center, and it’s not a moment too soon for his teammates and fans alike.
Said McCarthy: “This has been a stressful period for him. It’s time to play football.”