Packers' QB situation remains murky

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By Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Friday, December 20, 2013

It sounds as though Matt Flynn will be the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, but judging from the way Mike McCarthy praised the practice performance of Aaron Rodgers, the coach might have been sending a message to the decision-makers that it’s time to clear his quarterback for play.

There is a misconception that McCarthy is the one deciding whether Rodgers will get cleared, but in the Packers organization general manager Ted Thompson gets the final say on all football matters.

It’s very possible that Thompson has been the one who has been the most reluctant to put Rodgers on the field after hearing the risk factors from team physician Patrick McKenzie. Thompson is conservative by nature and given his role as overseer of the franchise might be playing it safe.

Thompson is the one who approved a record-setting $110 million contract extension for Rodgers and he definitely wants to protect his investment. He does not want to see Rodgers suffer a displaced fracture of the collarbone and face several months of rehab in the off-season.

On Thursday, McCarthy strongly sent out the message that he thinks Rodgers is capable of performing at a winning level even though much of practice was devoted to Flynn running with the No. 1 offense. He made it clear Rodgers’ broken left collarbone was not hindering him on the field.

“He looks sharp,” McCarthy said after practice. “He definitely looks better this week. He looks like he’s ready to play.”

Thompson was at practice and saw Rodgers take a few snaps with the offense. Whether he saw the same thing as McCarthy is questionable and whether he thinks the reward aspect of the equation is greater than the risk aspect will be known today.

On Sunday, it will have been eight weeks since the fracture took place. Several shoulder specialists have said six to eight weeks is the normal recovery time for a cracked collarbone but added the doctor has to feel comfortable based on several factors that enough healing has taken place.

Flynn took the bulk of the snaps on the longest practice day—performed without pads—leading most people to believe he would start against Pittsburgh. He has started three straight games and led the Packers to victories over Atlanta and Dallas, breaking a four-game winless streak with the victory over the Falcons.

He replaced Scott Tolzien in the Minnesota game Nov. 24 and led a second-half comeback that ended in a tie.

Flynn had to share snaps with Rodgers on Wednesday and Thursday last week, and it’s possible his lack of work played into the slow start the offense had. Even if it didn’t, McCarthy didn’t want to take any chances and gave Flynn more snaps than he had at this time last week.

“(We’re making) sure we’re getting Matt ready to play,” McCarthy said.

Rodgers said he had an idea about whether he would be cleared and judging from his short and uninformative weekly meeting with reporters, it seemed as if he was expecting to ride the pine for an seventh consecutive week. He declined to say what his gut feeling was on the looming decision.

“It’s a medical decision,” he said. “It’s an organizational decision.”

Rodgers deferred to McCarthy when asked if the final decision on clearing him was Thompson’s or McKenzie’s.

As for his practice performance this week, Rodgers said there was a noticeable difference in the way he was throwing the ball.

“I’ve completed just about every pass in practice,” Rodgers said. “Last week I had a couple bad ones.”

McCarthy would not concede that Flynn would be his starter Sunday and said the process would be exactly the same as it was last week. Rodgers would be re-evaluated Friday morning and a decision on his status would be made then.

“Aaron Rodgers practiced well today,” McCarthy said. “We have the medical meetings on Wednesday and Friday, so we’ll have a conversation tomorrow. Obviously, today he’s still not medically cleared.

“Looked very good at practice. I would state him ready to play.”

Now it’s a matter of getting medical clearance.

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