Packers: Tests done on Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone, results still to come
GREEN BAY -- The tests are done. But the waiting -- and, apparently, the discussion -- are ongoing.
Aaron Rodgers did indeed have the sporting world’s most renowned collarbone scanned Monday morning. But whether the results of those scans showed enough healing to allow the Green Bay Packers’ two-time NFL MVP quarterback to return to action for Sunday’s game at Carolina, well, that’s a matter of opinion.
And those expert opinions weren’t yet in on Monday evening.
As he often does with high-profile or challenging cases regarding his players, Packers team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie took the results of Rodgers’ scans and sent them to multiple experts for their review. Once they determine their recommendations, McKenzie will gather those recommendations, share them with Rodgers and the team’s football braintrust -- coach Mike McCarthy, general manager Ted Thompson and vice president of football administration Russ Ball -- and then they’ll determine how to proceed.
Whether that means Rodgers plays against the Panthers, or the Packers must continue their unlikely playoff push with backup quarterback Brett Hundley at the helm, hangs in the balance.
“It is now in the evaluation stage,” McCarthy said Monday afternoon during his usual day-after-the-game briefing – a news conference that was anything but typical given the subject matter. “Dr. McKenzie is reviewing it. There’s a number of medical opinions that will be involved in the decision, so at this time I do not have a clean decision for you -- or an update. That’s where it stands.”
That said, McCarthy is hoping he’ll have clarity sometime Tuesday -- which would assist in game-planning and also be better for Rodgers so he’s not in limbo any longer, McCarthy said.
“We’d like to make a decision as soon as possible. Obviously the offensive staff’s in the process of putting together a game plan, but at the end of the day, the organization is focused on doing what’s in the best interest of Aaron Rodgers,” McCarthy said. “I’d like to know as soon as possible. Frankly, it’s best for Aaron to know as soon as possible. He’s the one that has to get ready, and obviously in his mind he’s ready to go if you watch him practice and (listened to) the conversations with him.
“But this is a medical decision and Dr. McKenzie is obviously in touch with a number of different medical experts and they’re evaluating the information.”
This isn’t the first time McKenzie has taken a collaborative approach with other doctors on a crucial decision. He consulted five experts before green-lighting the return of safety Sean Richardson from a neck injury in 2013 after cervical fusion surgery a year earlier. He also sought opinions of a host of other doctors on tight end Jermichael Finley’s career-ending neck injury in 2013.
“If I don’t tomorrow, they’re going to be putting Pat McKenzie on IR,” McCarthy joked. “Hey, it’s a process obviously. They’re evaluating and hopefully we’ll have a decision as soon as we can.”
Rodgers broke his right collarbone in an Oct. 15 loss at Minnesota. He then had two metal plates affixed to the collarbone with 13 screws during an Oct. 19 surgery in Southern California and was placed on injured reserve the following day by the Packers. He was designated for return on Dec. 1 and took part in practice last Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday before sitting out his seventh straight game Sunday, a 27-21 overtime victory at Cleveland.
On the comeback trail, Rodgers did intensive rehabilitation work -- including one session during practice inside the Don Hutson Center on Nov. 16 that got his teammates excited about his return. He ratcheted up the Packers’ hopes even higher with a pregame throwing session before the team’s Nov. 26 loss at Pittsburgh, and again with his throwing in practice.
But Rodgers’ return to game action hinges not on how his collarbone feels as much as what McKenzie and the other doctors see in the scans and whether they believe the surgery and Rodgers’ rehab have led to sufficient healing of the bone.
His teammates, meanwhile, did enough to keep their playoff hopes afloat in his absence, going 3-5 with Hundley at quarterback, including the loss to the Vikings in which Rodgers was injured. Hundley has led the team to back-to-back overtime victories over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Browns the past two weeks, leaving the Packers at 7-6 with three games remaining.
The Packers almost certainly have to win all three of those games to reach the postseason for the ninth consecutive year. And while Hundley has improved since taking over, it’s obvious that their odds increase significantly with their leader back in the fray.
“My No. 1 thought going into it was, ‘Keep our hopes alive to make the playoffs.’ And, we’re still in it,” Hundley said after Davante Adams’ 25-yard touchdown catch-and-run in overtime. “At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens. I’m just here. When my number’s called upon, I’ll be ready. But in the meantime, that was my No. 1 goal. And we’re still in it. So, let’s keep rolling.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday the Panthers were preparing as though Rodgers will play.
“We’ll game plan for what they do and how they do it,” Rivera said. “And we’ll see who plays.”
The Packers are taking a similar approach. Both McCarthy and offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said the coaches worked on their preliminary game plan for the Panthers at the end of last week, as they do with each upcoming opponent. They’ll adjust it once they know who’ll be under center.
“So now, we’ll wait,” Bennett said. “We’ll wait and find out.”