BRO­KEN COL­LAR­BONE

Packer Plus - - Analysis - MICHAEL CO­HEN AND TOM SIL­VER­STEIN RYAN WOOD

Aaron Rodgers eyes re­turn only if ‘healed com­pletely’

Green Bay — With­out a sling, and with con­sid­er­ably less pain than he orig­i­nally en­dured, Green Bay Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers ad­dressed the me­dia last Fri­day for the first time since break­ing his right col­lar­bone 19 days prior.

“It’s good to be back,” Rodgers said in the Pack­ers' locker room. “Good week for me last week hav­ing surgery and then get­ting to stay out west for the ini­tial re­hab and checkup. But it’s good to be back here with the guys.”

Rodgers un­der­went surgery to re­pair an in­jury he said was “sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent” and “much more in­tense” than the bro­ken left col­lar­bone he suf­fered in 2013, which side­lined him for seven games. This time Rodgers’ right col­lar­bone frac­tured un­der the weight of Min­nesota Vik­ings line­backer An

thony Barr, who hit the quar­ter­back af­ter a pass was re­leased. The NFL deemed Barr’s hit to be le­gal; Rodgers be­lieves a two-hand shove would have suf­ficed.

None­the­less, the sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure was per­formed in Cal­i­for­nia at a lo­ca­tion hand­picked by Rodgers, though he de­clined to share the name. Doc­tors in­serted a plate and an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of screws into his col­lar­bone to sta­bi­lize the frac­ture, Rodgers said, and all sides were pleased with the end re­sult.

Rodgers re­mained in Cal­i­for­nia through the bye be­fore re­turn­ing to Green Bay, join­ing the rest of his team­mates in their prepa­ra­tion for Mon­day night’s game against the De­troit Lions.

“Well, the beauty of it was (team doc­tor) Pat ( McKen­zie) and I have a very close re­la­tion­ship,” Rodgers said. “He’s done surgery on me a cou­ple of times and he en­cour­aged me to find a great trauma doc to do this, and I looked into a few dif­fer­ent peo­ple. There’s some in­credi- ble, tal­ented doc­tors out there. Set­tled on some folks that made the most sense from a lo­ca­tion stand­point for me. As far as how many dif­fer­ent things I re­searched, I had three days of sit­ting on my butt to re­search stuff, so it was plenty of in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­cles and reads.”

In ad­di­tion to re­search­ing doc­tors, Rodgers ded­i­cated a por­tion of those first three days to the “griev­ing” at­tached to miss­ing what might be the re­main­der of the sea­son. He ded­i­cated an­other por­tion of his time to re­search­ing holis­tic meth­ods that are be­lieved to ac­cel­er­ate heal­ing.

Whether Rodgers can re­turn this sea­son is con­tin­gent upon his rate of heal­ing, and more specif­i­cally how quickly the bone fuses around his newly in­stalled hard­ware. The base­line for a po­ten­tial re­turn was es­tab­lished when the Pack­ers placed Rodgers on in­jured re­serve on Oct. 20, guar­an­tee­ing he will miss a min­i­mum of eight weeks. He is el­i­gi­ble to be­gin prac­tic- ing af­ter six.

Still, Rodgers ex­pressed a great deal of cau­tion when dis­cussing his im­me­di­ate fu­ture dur­ing a 16-minute in­ter­view at his locker. The pos­si­bil­ity of miss­ing the en­tire sea­son — first floated by the Pack­ers dur­ing the very game in which Rodgers was in­jured — re­mains ex­tremely real. Rodgers, 33, made it clear he will not push the en­ve­lope for the sake of sal­vaging what­ever might re­main of the 2017 Pack­ers sea­son by mid-De­cem­ber.

“The only rea­son to come back would be that I’m healed com­pletely,” Rodgers said. “If that doesn’t hap­pen in eight weeks, there’s not even a con­ver­sa­tion.

“I would just tem­per ex­pec­ta­tions be­cause as much as I would love to get back out there this year, if it’s not healed, then there’s no con­ver­sa­tion. If it is healed, then there’s a con­ver­sa­tion and we’ll go from there. But that’s kind of the out­look at this point.”

The Pack­ers will know by mid-De­cem­ber if Rodgers' role is des­tined to change or if his sea­son is truly done. And un­til then, as Brett Hund­ley and backup Joe Cal­la­han sink or swim, the only thing to do is wait.

“If we’re healthy in eight weeks and it would make sense to come back,” Rodgers said, “then I’m go­ing to come back.” McCarthy can’t con­firm

team’s in­ter­est in QB: If the Green Bay Pack­ers at­tempted to sign vet­eran quar­ter­back Bri

an Hoyer, as was re­ported last week, coach Mike McCarthy says he wasn’t in­volved.

The Pack­ers at­tempted to “steal” Hoyer af­ter he was re­leased by the San Fran­cisco 49ers last week Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to NFL Net­work. Hoyer ul­ti­mately signed a three-year deal with the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots to serve as Tom Brady’s backup, and McCarthy said he never was privy to con­ver­sa­tions about bring­ing Hoyer to Green Bay.

“Well, I’ll just say this about vet­eran free agency,” McCarthy said. “First off, I can’t con­firm (the re­port) be­cause from the time Aaron (Rodgers) has been in­jured, I’ve never once been in­volved in a con­ver­sa­tion about bring­ing in a vet­eran quar­ter­back.

“So from my per­spec­tive, from the time of the Min­nesota game, the Mon­day af­ter the Min­nesota game to here to­day, … I know you think I’m talk­ing to you guys (in the me­dia), but I’m re­ally talk­ing to our foot­ball team and our fans. The di­rec­tion that we’re go­ing with the quar­ter­backs is Brett Hund­ley and the guys that we have here.

“So that was re­ally clearly the vi­sion from the time we had to ad­dress it there in Min­nesota.”

It means that from a coach­ing per­spec­tive the Pack­ers al­ways have planned to move for­ward with Hund­ley as their starter and Cal­la­han as the backup. Those are the two play­ers tasked with bridg­ing the gap un­til a po­ten­tial re­turn by Rodgers, who un­der­went surgery to re­pair his bro­ken right col­lar­bone and was placed on in­jured re­serve.

Things are of­ten dif­fer­ent from a per­son­nel per­spec­tive, how­ever, and it’s likely the Pack­ers’ front of­fice ex­pressed in­ter­est in Hoyer with­out con­sult­ing any­one on the coach­ing staff, as is their right. Gen­eral man­ager Ted Thomp­son and his scouts com­mu­ni­cate with agents and other league per­son­nel on a daily ba­sis, and it is ul­ti­mately their de­ci­sion about which play­ers they be­lieve can or can­not help the Pack­ers win.

Hoyer was not avail­able when Rodgers in­jured his col­lar­bone Oct. 15 vs. the Vik­ings and only hit the mar­ket af­ter the 49ers ac­quired QB Jimmy Ga

rop­polo in a trade with the Pa­tri­ots right be­fore last week’s dead­line.

“I’m not naive to the fact that player per­son­nel peo­ple talk around the league,” McCarthy said. “Was there a con­ver­sa­tion on other free agents, par­tic­u­lar-

ly lead­ing up to the dead­line of trad­ing? Yeah, that’s those guys do­ing their jobs. But as far as pur­su­ing any player, I per­son­ally was not in­volved in any con­ver­sa­tions, es­pe­cially on a vet­eran quar­ter­back.” New long snap­per; Biegel ac­ti­vated: The Pack­ers’ mer­rygo-round at the long snap­per po­si­tion con­tin­ues, and the lat­est to be plucked for ac­tion is Derek Hart.

The Hart sign­ing was just one of a flurry of moves the Pack­ers made to their 53-man ros­ter last Fri­day.

In ad­di­tion to putting long snap­per Tay­bor Pep­per on in­jured re­serve, they moved line­backer Vince Biegel from the phys­i­cally un­able to per­form list to the 53-man ros­ter and put safety Ken­trell Brice on in­jured re­serve. They also signed cor­ner­back Donatello Brown from their prac­tice squad.

The Brice move was the most sur­pris­ing. He had been deal­ing with an an­kle in­jury since early in the sea­son and ag­gra­vated it against New Or­leans. But he re­turned to the game and fin­ished it out. Brice sat out both days of prac­tice last week.

Biegel has been prac­tic­ing for three weeks af­ter miss­ing all of train­ing camp and the first seven games of the sea­son be­cause of a bro­ken foot.

Brown had a solid train­ing camp, but the Pack­ers went with Lenzy Pip­kins ahead of him be­cause Pip­kins could play in the slot. Both are un­drafted rook­ies. Brown likely will con­trib­ute on spe­cial teams be­fore he does on de­fense.

The Pack­ers learned Pep­per’s foot in­jury suf­fered in prac­tice last week was se­ri­ous and de­cided to sign Hart, who was with the team in train­ing camp but was cut in fa­vor of vet­eran Brett Goode be­cause of some re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues.

Goode in­jured a ham­string in Week 3, and Pep­per was signed to re­place him.

Goode was put on in­jured re­serve and then signed an in­jury set­tle­ment that al­lowed him to be­come a free agent. He has been work­ing out and is healthy, ac­cord­ing to his agent, Kevin

Gold, but in­jury set­tle­ment rules re­quire that three weeks pass be­fore a team can re-sign a player who has signed that agree­ment.

It is be­lieved that Goode signed a four-week set­tle­ment. Thus, Goode won’t be el­i­gi­ble un­til af­ter Week 10.

That would mean the Pack­ers would have to get by with Hart for the De­troit and Chicago games be­fore bring­ing Goode back Nov. 19 for Baltimore. Of course, it’s al­ways pos­si­ble that Hart will do well enough that the Pack­ers don’t need to call upon Goode again.

The Pack­ers opened up room on their 53-man ros­ter last week by re­leas­ing de­fen­sive line­man

Ricky Jean Fran­cois for the sec­ond time this sea­son. Ben­nett’s rea­son for po­ten­tial re­tire­ment: ‘Life’: Three days af­ter an­nounc­ing his po- ten­tial re­tire­ment at sea­son’s end, Pack­ers tight end Mar­tel

lus Ben­nett de­clined to be in­ter­viewed in­side the locker room last week at Lam­beau Field.

Asked if he would speak to the me­dia at any point last week, the vet­eran tight end said, “Prob­a­bly not.” Pressed on why he wouldn’t speak, Ben­nett said, “Noth­ing to talk about.”

Ben­nett’s an­nounce­ment Oct. 28 on Instagram caught the Pack­ers by sur­prise. McCarthy said he hadn’t con­sulted with his tight end be­fore­hand. Ben­nett signed a three-year, $21 mil­lion con­tract in March, though the deal could be viewed as one year with a team op­tion for the fi­nal two.

McCarthy de­clined to share his re­ac­tion to the news last week Tues­day.

“Any time com­ments are made,” McCarthy said, “you should prob­a­bly speak to the in­di­vid­ual. I’m not go­ing to speak on any­body’s fu­ture plans and so forth. But there’ll be a point to sit down and talk to Marty.”

In his Instagram post, Ben­nett wrote: “Af­ter con­ver­sa­tions with my fam­ily I’m pretty sure these next eight games will be the con­clu­sion of my NFL ca­reer. To ev­ery­one who has poured them­selves and time into my life and ca­reer. These next games are for you. Thank you.”

The Pack­ers ac­tu­ally had nine games re­main­ing, in­clud­ing Mon­day’s game against the Lions.

On Satur­day, McCarthy men­tioned Ben­nett was seek­ing med­i­cal opin­ions for an in­jured shoul­der. Ben­nett was in­ac­tive Mon­day night.

“We’re wait­ing on some in­for­ma­tion,” McCarthy said Satur­day. “He’s still tak­ing a visit or two. Hope­fully, we’ll have more in­for­ma­tion to­day.”

Be­fore he left the locker room last week Tues­day, Ben­nett was asked what led him to his de­ci­sion to po­ten­tially end his NFL ca­reer at sea­son’s end. “Life,” was all he said.

Spriggs re­turns: Tackle Ja­son Spriggs be­came el­i­gi­ble to re­turn to prac­tice from in­jured re­serve last week and the Pack­ers wasted no time in get­ting him back on the field.

By do­ing so, the Pack­ers au­to­mat­i­cally trig­gered one of the two “des­ig­nated to re­turn” op­tions they have for play­ers on in­jured re­serve. Spriggs would be el­i­gi­ble to play against the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 19. The other “des­ig­nated to re­turn” move is be­ing saved for Rodgers.

Lions re­union: Vet­eran guard Don Bar­clay, re­cently re­leased by the Pack­ers af­ter spend­ing the sea­son on in­jured re­serve, signed last week Tues­day with the Lions. He re­joined for­mer Pack­ers of­fen­sive-line team­mate T.J. Lang, who left Green Bay dur­ing the off­sea­son and signed a free-agent deal with De­troit.

Bar­clay played in 62 reg­u­larsea­son games with 24 starts for the Pack­ers af­ter sign­ing out of West Vir­ginia as an un­drafted free agent in 2012. He missed the 2014 sea­son with a torn ACL. Har­lan to speak Jan. 5 at Meyer The­atre: For­mer Green Bay Pack­ers pres­i­dent and CEO

Bob Har­lan will speak at the Meyer The­atre at 7 p.m. Jan. 5.

From his early days at Mar­quette Univer­sity to help­ing build the Pack­ers into the crown jewel of the NFL, Har­lan, 81, will talk about his ex­pe­ri­ences run­ning a pro­fes­sional fran­chise in the small­est city in the NFL. WFRV-TV sports di­rec­tor

Burke Grif­fin will host the in­ti­mate evening that spans life, foot­ball and fam­ily.

Tick­ets for “An Evening with Bob Har­lan” are $30 at tick­et­staron­line.com, (800) 895-0071 and the Resch Cen­ter box of­fice.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers shakes hands with Lions quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford be­fore the game Mon­day night in Green Bay.

DAN POW­ERS / USA TO­DAY

Green Bay Pack­ers cor­ner­back Donatello Brown was pro­moted from the prac­tice squad to the 53-man ros­ter last week. Brown, a rookie out of Val­dosta State, will mostly con­trib­ute on spe­cial teams.

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