GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone is feeling back to normal. And the Green Bay Packers quarterback intends to have a 2018 that will look a lot like his last comeback season from that injury four years ago.
Speaking to the Packers’ team website in a red-carpet interview before Saturday night’s NFL Honors event in Minneapolis — where, the last time he was in town, he broke his right collarbone on a hit by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr — Rodgers was reminded that after missing seven games in 2013 with a fractured left collarbone, he returned in 2014 and won his second NFL MVP award.
“I plan on doing that again,” Rodgers said confidently.
Rodgers missed seven games after undergoing surgery to have two metal plates and 13 screws inserted into his collarbone on Oct. 19, four days after he went down against the Vikings. With the Packers on the outskirts of playoff contention after they struggled behind backup Brett Hundley, Rodgers managed to return from injured reserve in time for the team’s Dec. 17 game at Carolina.
After losing to the Panthers, however, the Packers shut down Rodgers for good, and he missed the team’s final two games — losses to the Vikings and Detroit Lions — to finish 7-9 and out of the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2008, Rodgers’ first year as a starter.
Asked about the Packers being back in Super Bowl contention next season, Rodgers replied, “I would say to Packer Nation, ‘Don’t get used to not watching your team in January, because it’s not going to be like that after this little aberration.’”
Rodgers missed seven starts in 2013 after injuring the left collarbone against the Chicago Bears. That injury, to his non-throwing shoulder, didn’t require surgery and he returned in time to beat the Bears at Soldier Field in the regular-season finale to send the Packers into the postseason at 8-7-1.
He came back the following season and threw for 4,381 yards with 38 touchdowns against five interceptions (112.2) en route to his second MVP award.
Rodgers said Saturday night he’s had no limitations on his offseason workouts on his own in southern California and that he’ll be full go by the time the Packers return for their offseason program in mid-April.
“I’m feeling great,” Rodgers said. “I’m back to my workouts. I was playing golf on Wednesday out in Scottsdale in the (Waste Management Phoenix Open) pro- am, so if I can do that, you know I’m feeling pretty good.
“I’m back into everything I like to do in the offseason with my training, and I’ll be ready to go when we’re back in April.”
Rodgers made headlines on Thursday when, during an appearance on ESPN Radio, he expressed his frustration with the departure of quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, Rodgers’ closest confidante on the coaching staff who let his contract expire after the 2017 season and was not retained. Van Pelt is now the Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterbacks coach.
“My quarterback coach didn’t get retained,” Rodgers said during his Raid Row appearance at the Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis. “I thought that was an interesting change — really without consulting me. There’s a close connection between quarterback and quarterback coach. And that was an … interesting decision.”
In his interview with the team website Saturday night, Rodgers didn’t say anything to take back his comments about Van Pelt’s departure. But he did express excitement about the return of Joe Philbin, the team’s offensive coordinator from 2007 through 2011 who has returned to that job after three-plus seasons as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach and as the Indianapolis Colts’ assistant head coach/offensive line coach.
The last time Philbin was on staff, in 2011, Rodgers won his first NFL MVP award, throwing for 45 touchdowns against just six interceptions for a NFL single-season record 122.5 quarterback rating.
“Joe and I were very close when he was with us the first stint,” Rodgers said. “He’s a fantastic guy, great coach. I’m excited to get back working with him.
“Again, change is hard in this business. It’s difficult when you lose not only friends that are teammates but friends that are coaches as well. The only constant you can count on in this game is it’s going to change every single year. As we’ve seen in the past, change has been good for us. (There should be a) new influx of energy with the defensive staff, and I’m excited about having Joe back.”
Asked what the Packers need to do in 2018 to make a run at Super Bowl LIII, Rodgers reiterated the defense must improve — a sentiment he shared in last week’s radio interview. After nine seasons, Packers coach Mike McCarthy fired Dom Capers after the Dec. 31 finale at Detroit and hired ex-Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine to replace him.
“I think what it’s going to take is us to be more consistent in all the phases,” Rodgers said. “We have to play championship defense. You look at the final four, all were up at the top in defensive categories. We have to get back to playing that kind of defense.
“Offensively, we have to get back to what we were doing in ’11. Thankfully the guy who was offensive coordinator in ’11 is back — Joe Philbin.”
Two area stops on Tour
The Packers announced their annual Tailgate Tour goodwill bus trip around the state will kick off April 10 and will include stops at Verona High School and the Pontiac Convention Center in Janesville. The tour will visit Verona (April 10); Monticello, Iowa (April 11); Janesville (April 12); Milwaukee (April 13); and West Bend (April 14). Tickets go on sale Friday.
Joining Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy on the tour will be defensive tackle Kenny Clark, inside linebacker Blake Martinez and running back Ty Montgomery. Three alumni players — long-snapper Rob Davis, wide receiver Antonio Freeman and tight end Bubba Franks — also will be on the tour.
The Verona and Janesville tailgate parties kick off at 6 p.m. and will run until 8:30 p.m., featuring food, giveaways, Q&A sessions and autographs. Tailgate party tickets cost $40; general admission tickets will be available for $10 for each location. All Tailgate Tour proceeds benefit the host organizations. The Verona stop will benefit the Badger Prairie Needs Network; the Janesville stop will benefit the Salvation Army. Visit Packers.com for more information.