Packers: Mike McCarthy laments poor play in loss to Vikings, says Aaron Rodgers will have surgery in ‘near future’
GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers’ season may or may not be over. Mike McCarthy was hell-bent Monday on making sure the rest of his Green Bay Packers players knew their season most certainly isn’t over in the wake of their two-time NFL MVP quarterback’s broken collarbone.
Turning the page earlier in the week than usual toward his team’s upcoming opponent (the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on Sunday), vehemently emphasizing his faith in backup quarterback Brett Hundley and making crystal clear his team’s performance was fundamentally unacceptable in Sunday’s 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the 12th-year coach was not holding back 24 hours after Rodgers’ season-changing injury.
First, McCarthy announced the news of the day: That Rodgers, who fractured his right clavicle when he was taken to the U.S. Bank Stadium turf by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, will undergo surgery “in the near future.” While McCarthy wouldn’t say when that surgery will be, it’s expected to be in the next few days as Rodgers wants to give himself every chance to return this season, as the surgery could actually accelerate his recovery.
In 2013, when Rodgers fractured his left clavicle, he did not undergo surgery and missed seven games, returning just in time to throw the winning 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the final minute of the regular-season finale at Chicago, sending the 8-7-1 Packers to the playoffs. It’s worth noting the Packers did not place Rodgers on injured reserve Monday when they promoted third-string quarterback Joe Callahan from the practice squad to back up new starter Brett Hundley.
“The focus right now is for Aaron to have surgery and from that obviously there will be more information,” McCarthy said. “Our focus is on his health. We’re not really focused on the roster right now.”
McCarthy and his staff also are focused on making sure their guys don’t play as poorly as they did against the Vikings. While McCarthy acknowledged losing Rodgers on the second series of the game likely contributed to the malaise his teammates exhibited thereafter, he hammered away at his players for making too many mental errors, missing too many tackles and not elevating their games with Rodgers sidelined.
“I was very disappointed in the number of mistakes we made,” McCarthy said. “You’ve got to tackle, you’ve got to break tackles, you’ve got to take care of the football, you’ve got to take the football away. We knew that was going to be key in the contest over there in Minnesota.”
McCarthy later circled back to that theme, adding. “We had an opportunity to win the game, (if we) play better, coach better. We didn’t do it. That’s the reality of what Monday is. You come in, you tell them straight. You tell them, ‘Hey, (you) did this the right way, you did this the wrong way, we need to do this better.’”
Rodgers wasn’t the only player to go down against the Vikings as the Packers’ season-long injury issues continued on the offensive line, where left tackle David Bakhtiari returned after missing four games with a hamstring injury, only to re-injure it; right tackle Bryan Bulaga, starting his second straight game after missing most of the first four weeks with an ankle injury, sustained a concussion; and left guard Lane Taylor, who’d started at left tackle in Bakhtiari’s place the past two weeks, went down with knee and ankle injuries.
That left Hundley behind a line with only two normal starters (center Corey Linsley and right guard Jahri Evans) and three players (Justin McCray, Ulrick John and Lucas Patrick) who weren’t even on the team a year ago.
Asked if his team should have handled the barrage of injuries Sunday better, McCarthy replied, “Well, the fact of the matter is, we have a lot of practice at it. So we should be better at it than we were yesterday.”
In an effort to move forward, McCarthy altered the Monday routine and began talking about the Saints with his team immediately after going through the tape of the Vikings game and working on corrections. Normally, after position coaches do their corrections with their players, McCarthy holds a team meeting in which more corrections are done as a whole, according to offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett. On Monday, that meeting was all about New Orleans.
“I’m more focused on getting back to playing Green Bay Packer football, because yesterday was not anything near where we wanted to be,” McCarthy said.
“Nothing’s changed for us. The goals, nothing changes. It’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate for all these guys to be hurt right now. It’s unfortunate to Aaron to get injured like that. But this is where we are. This is part of our journey. All the energy needs to be poured into beating the Saints.”