GREEN BAY — Exactly one week after Aaron Rodgers spent most of his Tuesday cajoling and convincing and persuading and pushing his way into the lineup for last Sunday’s game at Carolina, the Green Bay Packers quarterback’s season came to an end.
With no playoff berth to fight for anymore and too much risk to his still-healing right collarbone, the Packers shut their two-time NFL MVP down, placing him on injured reserve once again.
“To play and come back and have the challenge … I think it shows you his competitive spirit and his will to be a champion,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday afternoon. “He’s a special player — stating the obvious — but he definitely laid it out there for us.
“(But) he took a number of hits. With all the factors involved, we felt this was clearly in Aaron Rodgers’ best interest. He’s not happy about it. It’s a hard day for him. This is not the way — I don’t think — any player wants to see their season come to a conclusion, being on IR. We all understand and appreciate and respect his competitive spirit, but we felt as an organization this was in his best interest.”
Rodgers was in the Packers’ locker room during the media access period Tuesday but did not talk to reporters. He also declined to comment on the decision when reached via iMessage.
There were multiple times during the game when Rodgers was caught by TV cameras wincing and appearing to be in pain. On Tuesday, McCarthy acknowledged Rodgers was “sore,” though he wouldn’t get into specifics.
And while McCarthy said the team had no regrets about letting Rodgers play against the Panthers, there were indications shutting Rodgers down wasn’t merely a we’re-out-of-the-playoffs decision — that there were still concerns about the dangers of Rodgers playing with the collarbone, which had two metal plates affixed to it with 13 screws during an Oct. 19 surgery in the Los Angeles area.
To take Rodgers’ roster spot and serve as the backup behind Brett Hundley for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field, the Packers officially re-signed third-stringer Joe Callahan, whom they’d released last week to make room for Rodgers before Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the Panthers.
Despite the loss, the Packers remained mathematically alive for their ninth straight playoff berth until Monday night, when they were eliminated with the Atlanta Falcons’ 24-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It’s very disappointing. You never want to be in this situation, but we are,” said veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb, who’s never missed the playoffs since joining the team in 2011. “We have too good of a team with too many good players in this locker room to be on the outside looking in, and not have a way in. We definitely have to figure it out this offseason, and come back ready to play next year.”
McCarthy wouldn’t say whether Rodgers’ season would be over if the Packers’ playoff hopes hadn’t gone kaput. Instead, he simply reiterated “the decision made today was in Aaron Rodgers’ best interest.”
McCarthy also said Rodgers did not suffer a setback with his collarbone by playing, though he talked multiple times about the number of hits Rodgers absorbed against the Panthers, including one from behind that McCarthy described as “a bad hit on a good day, when you’re completely healthy, not coming off what he went through to get back for that game.”
“We all were (nervous). I mean, let’s be honest,” McCarthy said. “The first time he was hit, I think everybody froze for a second. Just to make sure he was fine. … But yeah, absolutely, we all cringed when he took that first hit.”
McCarthy said he didn’t see the point in being coy about the team’s quarterback plans to keep the Vikings guessing, adding it was more important for Hundley to get the requisite work in advance of the game. Hundley, who was up-and-down in his seven-plus games of action, led the Packers to back-to-back overtime wins over Tampa Bay and Cleveland to keep the team in playoff contention before Rodgers’ return.
“I expect to win the game,” McCarthy said. “It’s a division game still. None of us like where we are. Angry, disappointed, all those emotions are part of our climate today here. But I expect and I demand our team to go out there and win the game.”
Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis had his suspension for his hit on Packers wide receiver Davante Adams reduced to one game by the league. He’ll miss this week’s game against Tampa Bay but will be back for the Panthers’ regular-season finale against Atlanta, a game with significant playoff implications. … Cobb, asked about Davis’ hit on his teammate, called it “bull (expletive). Excuse my language, but there’s no place in this game for that.” … In addition to Adams, who remained in the concussion protocol, the Packers had linebackers Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder), Vince Biegel (groin) and Clay Matthews (hamstring) on their injury report, along with veteran right guard Jahri Evans (knee). Of those players, only Biegel would have been able to practice on a limited basis had the Packers not limited their on-field work to walk-throughs. “(When) we get down on the field tomorrow and move, we’ll have a better idea,” McCarthy said. ... The Packers had zero players selected to the Pro Bowl, marking the first time since 2005 they’d been shut out. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels and fullback Aaron Ripkowski came closest as first-alternates and could be added to the rosters. In 2013, when Rodgers missed seven games with a fractured left collarbone, the Packers had only one Pro Bowl pick — running back Eddie Lacy.