Aaron Rodgers played through a fractured pinky toe the last eight games of the season and called it one of the most painful injuries he’s ever had. But as the Green Bay Packers get set for what they hope will be a run to Rodgers’ second Super Bowl title and the franchise’s fifth, the quarterback is feeling the best he has in the last two months.
“I haven’t taken one in a number of weeks now. That’s been the most encouraging thing,” said Rodgers of a numbing shot he took to mask the pain. “The whole goal was to be able to not have to do and it’s been a few games now without doing that. I’m feeling good. I practiced (Wednesday). I’m close to 100% and think I should be 100% probably by next week.”
The injury sustained while working out during his quarantine for COVID-19 has not impacted his play. Since returning to the field Nov. 14, Rodgers has thrown 20 touchdowns and just one interception. That effort helped the Packers to the No. 1 seed in the NFC and strengthened his bid for a fourth Most Valuable Player award. It also earned them a first-round bye in the playoffs, an opening Rodgers plans to take advantage of.
“Rest. Rest,” Rodgers said with added emphasis the second time. “I’m about to go home and it’s what 12:22. It’s pretty freaking sweet. I’m going to enjoy this rest. I’m sure many people — hopefully it’s not just me — I still got a semi messy house post-Christmas and New Year’s. It’s the end of the season so you don’t have time for that. I’m going to clean my house. I’m going to rest. I’m going to read some books. I’m going to relax. That’s what I’m getting out of this week.”
Coach Matt LaFleur is hoping to get more out of the week than Rodgers. It’s why the Packers practiced Wednesday and will do so again Thursday even though there is no opponent to prepare for.
“I’d say, number one, making sure that we’re staying in football shape, especially with some of the guys that are coming back. It’s a great opportunity to use this time effectively to up their conditioning levels,” LaFleur said. “I would say also just keeping your mind sharp, and then kind of re-acclimating ourselves with the elements outdoors. Last week being that we practiced everyday in indoors (before playing inside at Detroit), I think it’s a good opportunity to get get back outside where it’s not quite as cozy with the temperature.”
When the Packers did venture out for practice Wednesday, they had some familiar faces back with them. That included linebacker Za’Darius Smith. He was taking part for the first time since before the season opener against New Orleans. He underwent back surgery the next week and landed on injured reserve.
Right tackle Billy Turner was also back after missing the last four games of the season with a knee injury. He was limited to individual drills, but the team is hopeful he’ll be able to play next weekend. His return, along with left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Josh Myers coming back last week, leaves some questions to answer for LaFleur and his staff as to how the offensive line will look.
“I would say (starting spots) are always up for competition,” LaFleur said. “Obviously, it’s predicated on who is available. We definitely have a plan. I’m sure you guys (media) would love to hear our plan but I’m going to keep our plan secret for now.”