Aaron Rodgers embraces the ‘toughness’ aspect of his job

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GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers was feeling the aftereffects on Monday morning of the 70 offensive snaps the Packers quarterback played in Sunday’s 29-29 tie with Minnesota.

Questionable to play with the knee injury he suffered in the opener against Chicago, Rodgers said after the game he probably was bothered more by getting “punched in the eye” on an early sack and a tender sternum after diving for a first down than the actual knee injury itself.

During his weekly Wednesday media scrum, Rodgers said he came out of Sunday’s game against the Vikings no worse for wear, but used a “Rocky” reference to illustrate how he felt Monday morning.

“If you’ve seen ‘Rocky III,’ you know Mr. T, Clubber Lang, has a prediction before the fight: ‘Paaaaain.’ That’s kind of what it felt like,” said Rodgers in jest.

Adrenaline and warm temperatures helped Rodgers pull through, completing 30-of-42 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. Predictably sore afterward, Rodgers was widely praised by his coaches and teammates alike for his gritty performance.

Both Rodgers and McCarthy still consider the two-time NFL MVP to be “week-to-week” with his knee injury. Being mindful of the entire team’s workload from Sunday, McCarthy opted to cancel practice Wednesday in favor of a team walk-through.

While the Packers aim to be more efficient in third-down and red-zone situations, Rodgers is generally pleased with what he’s seen from the offense heading into this Sunday’s matchup with Washington, which touts the league’s No. 1-ranked defense.

Rodgers said not much has changed with the offensive plays McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin have designed for the offense in the wake of his injury. The biggest thing has been being smart with reps Rodgers takes in practice.

When Rodgers sat out of practice last Wednesday and Thursday, he placed a greater emphasis on replicating those reps during walk-throughs.

His hope is to again practice at least once this week like Rodgers did last Saturday when he handled a bulk of the snaps with the No. 1 offense during the team’s final practice.

Having played through knee injuries in the past, Rodgers says he knows what he’s capable of doing and what he needs to be prepared. Being on the same page as McCarthy and Philbin plays into that process.

“He’s got to know what’s up, meaning what plays are up. Can we do some (play-)action or can we not?” Rodgers said. “That just depends on how my knee’s feeling. I don’t think you can say because I did some of those things in the game that automatically I’ll be able to do that anymore on Sunday. It depends on how I’m feeling.”

One popular topic around the NFL this week has been the league doubling down on the roughing-the-passer penalties on Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks and Packers linebacker Clay Matthews during Sunday’s game against the Vikings.

Rodgers sympathizes with the “tough job” officials have in today’s NFL, but said he didn’t agree with either call. When Kendricks brought him to the ground on an incomplete pass with 1 minute, 37 seconds left in the first half, Rodgers said he didn’t expect to see the flag thrown when he returned to his feet.

“I think we enjoy the protection below the knee and above the shoulders, but I don’t know many quarterbacks who want those calls,” Rodgers said. “There’s very few opportunities in the game for us to show any type of toughness. We’re not getting hit every play – hopefully not. The one on me, I don’t think that’s roughing the passer, either. There’s a goal to limit these hits, but they’re pretty obvious when you see them.

“But I’m a traditionalist. I’ve watched the game and loved the game for a long time, and some of the rules I think help, but some of the rules maybe are going the wrong direction.”

Although the league has stressed the importance of defenders not falling on quarterbacks with their full body weight, Rodgers and Matthews were caught off-guard by referee Tony Corrente’s interpretation Matthews lifted Kirk Cousins and drove the Vikings quarterback to the turf. Regardless, Rodgers said things like that happen in games and it’s up to the offense to play through them.

This weekend, Rodgers is looking forward to another showdown with 2005 NFL Draft classmate Alex Smith, who was traded to Washington in the offseason. Rodgers jokingly added one often gets confused for the other when they’ve played charity golf tournaments in the past.

As for his knee, Rodgers said everything is business as usual. He declined to elaborate on his rehab process this week, but remains hopeful to return to full health at some point this season.

Until then, he plans to continue gritting his teeth and toughing it out so long as he’s cleared to be on the field.

“I think that’s part of being physically tough,” Rodgers said. “It’s a combination of understanding your body really well and knowing your weaknesses based on whatever is ailing you. For me, as a leader, I want to be out there with the guys. That’s my motivation, is to lead and be on the field and contribute. And like I’ve always said, unless it’s a super debilitating injury, I’d like to be out there.”

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