GREEN BAY—Friday will once again be decision day for the Packers on Aaron Rodgers, but judging from the quarterback's tone of voice in a brief media session at his locker on Thursday, Rodgers isn't expecting the decision to go his way.
Asked if he has a sense whether or not he'll receive medical clearance to play on Sunday against Pittsburgh, Rodgers answered in rather emotionless and subdued fashion, "I have a good sense of what's going to happen, yes."
The apparent pessimism more than likely stems, at least in part, from his workload in practice. Rodgers said he didn't take many reps in the team (11-on-11) practice periods on Thursday, while Mike McCarthy also noted that backup Matt Flynn took the "majority" of the team snaps.
McCarthy also described Rodgers as looking "very good," "sharp" and "better this week" than last. But, as has been the case for the last several weeks, every positive comment carries the ultimate caveat.
"Obviously still today he's not medically cleared," McCarthy said. "I would state him ready to play, but once again, we're going through the process. We're making sure we're getting Matt ready to play."
Asked what he thought he needed to do to gain medical clearance, Rodgers deferred that question and multiple follow-ups to McCarthy. He also made reference to the decision being "medical" and "organizational" three times.
Even though Rodgers said being able to practice has helped emotionally, it's obvious that to not have medical clearance to play when physically he "feels good" is wearing on him.
"It's tough to be so close last week and not be able to play," he said. "But we're right in this thing, Matt is playing well, and I'm back on the practice field, so the frustration level is going down."
The Packers defense will be down a key player for what appears to be the rest of the season. Tests on defensive end Johnny Jolly's shoulder and neck revealed a "significant injury," McCarthy said, so Jolly has been ruled out for this week and almost certainly longer.
One of the unit's best run defenders, Jolly will be replaced in the rotation by rookie Josh Boyd, who got his most extensive playing time of the season last Sunday in Dallas after Jolly left the game in the first half.
Boyd, a fifth-round draft pick out of Mississippi State, played 32 snaps and was credited with three tackles against the Cowboys, including one for loss. He also drew a holding penalty.
"Boyd is already coming into his own anyway," veteran defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. "Boyd is going to be a heck of a player. He's already starting to blossom. He'll have more opportunity now, and we definitely need him."
In five of their last seven games, the Packers have had a rough go of it against the run. Those struggles have been the foundation of the defense's shortcomings, though a few key fourth-quarter takeaways in the past two games have helped compensate and spur a pair of comeback victories.
"We feel like we haven't been playing our best defense, and it's still out there," Pickett said. "We still have time to play our best defense. We're definitely looking forward to this week and putting on the best performance of the year. We need it." Additional coverage - Dec. 19