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Aaron Rodgers two-thirds of the way to playing

Posted Dec 4, 2013

Will it be Rodgers or Matt Flynn under center on Sunday?

GREEN BAY—Aaron Rodgers wasn’t putting any percentage on his chances of playing Sunday, but either way he doesn’t believe it’ll be a game-time decision.

“I think by Friday or Saturday at the latest there will be a decision,” Rodgers said on Wednesday, after continuing his rehab by doing individual drills in practice.

In a short media session at his locker, Rodgers reiterated what he said on his radio show earlier in the week, that he’s in essence two-thirds of the way toward medical clearance to play. Two parts are good, the strength and range of motion in his left shoulder. But the third part, the latest scan of his broken collarbone, did not show what he was hoping for.

“It’s tough not to be out there with the guys, that’s where the frustration lies,” he said. “It’s tough to see us not winning football games, but I need to take some of my own advice – worry about the things you can control. I can’t control the healing of my bone. That’s frustrating.”

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he’s taking it day by day, hoping Rodgers can do more in practice on Thursday. In the meantime, Matt Flynn is preparing to start against the Falcons and help the offense atone for one of the worst performances of the McCarthy era last Thursday in Detroit.

Job one is to get the passing game going to pull the opposing defense out of eight-man fronts designed to stop the run. McCarthy said the Packers began seeing that a month ago against Philadelphia, and it hasn’t changed much.

Conventional wisdom says that if an offense can connect on a couple of deep shots downfield, the defense will have to adjust, but Flynn said it’s not necessarily about making big plays.

“I don’t think the mindset is we have to throw the ball deep,” Flynn said. “We just have to make them respect the pass, whatever that is, take what they give us. Whether it’s quick throws, deep throws, whatever it is, you have to make people respect the throw again.”

The Lions never did and, as a result, never stopped attacking the line of scrimmage. Green Bay’s running backs produced just 20 yards on 13 carries, Flynn was sacked seven times, and nothing resembling an offensive rhythm ever materialized.

“That’s kind of an empty feeling,” Flynn said. “It’s one of those feelings where the harder you keep trying, the more you keep digging yourself a hole.”

An actual week of live practice snaps should help, as opposed to the abbreviated preparation during Thanksgiving week that consisted almost solely of walk-through work. Receiver Jordy Nelson said Flynn was joking with him during Wednesday’s workout that “it’s actually kind of nice to run the plays that we’re going to run in the game.”

It would also be nice if the offensive line could stabilize health-wise, but that effort hit another potential snag when center Evan Dietrich-Smith rolled his ankle and couldn’t make it through practice. Other than that, the Packers are as healthy as they’ve been in a while, with only front-seven defenders Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson missing practice entirely.

Dietrich-Smith went down with a knee injury in Detroit in the second quarter, but he said that felt fine after the long weekend off.

“Good times, just keep piling them on,” Dietrich-Smith said with equal parts sarcasm and annoyance regarding his ankle. “You’re getting right back to where you’re feeling close to 100 (percent), and it’s one thing after another.”

That’s been the story of the Packers’ season, and Dietrich-Smith followed Rodgers’ lead in not assessing his odds of playing on Sunday, either.

The week of preparation will continue with Flynn for now, though the backup QB will be the last one to count Rodgers out. He recalled during his rookie season of 2008 when he took every practice rep during the week with Rodgers nursing a separated shoulder.

Coincidentally, Atlanta was coming to Lambeau Field then, and Flynn was told 90 minutes before kickoff when the gameday inactive list needed to be turned in that Rodgers was playing.

This situation is quite different, given that Rodgers didn’t miss multiple weeks of practice time back then, but forgive Flynn if he’s not exactly buying Rodgers’ line about deciding a day or two before the game. Like all backups, his approach is to be ready for anything.

“You can never tell with that guy, so we’ll see,” Flynn said. “I know he’s doing everything he can and wants to be out there so bad.”

Additional coverage - Dec. 4

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