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McCarthy: 'The goal is to play Aaron Rodgers'

But several variables will factor into the availability of Packers' quarterback Thursday night


GREEN BAY - The Packers' goal is to play quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Thursday's preseason game at Lambeau Field, but the team is still weighing several variables before finalizing who dresses against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rodgers told reporters on Monday he's hoping to play since the last time he played in front of a home crowd was Green Bay's 35-14 win over the Chicago Bears on Sept. 28, 2017. Furthermore, Rodgers hasn't played in a preseason home game since a 31-21 win over Oakland on Aug. 22, 2014, due in part to some scheduling quirks over the past few seasons.

While Head Coach Mike McCarthy is on board with the idea of the two-time MVP suiting up, the state of the offensive line will factor into that decision. David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga returned to practice this week, but a decision has yet to be made whether either of the Packers' starting tackles will play.

"The goal is to play Aaron on Thursday," said McCarthy on Tuesday morning. "Coordination of who he plays with is part of that decision. But yeah, definitely, that's the goal for him to play."

If Rodgers plays, McCarthy doesn't have any concern about getting enough snaps for backup quarterbacks Brett Hundley, DeShone Kizer and Tim Boyle, who combined for 372 passing yards in last Thursday's 31-17 win over Tennessee.

The Packers have tapered Rodgers' preseason reps the past two seasons. He played 26 combined snaps last summer in road games against Washington (6-of-8 for 37 yards and a touchdown) and Denver (3-of-5 for 12 yards).

A big component of the Packers' preparation for the regular season is the reps Rodgers takes with the offense on the practice field. He's already began building a rapport with new tight end Jimmy Graham, who caught a spectacular one-handed touchdown from Rodgers in a red-zone period of Monday's practice at Nitschke Field.

"Where Aaron is (in his career), it's more about the coordination of who he's playing with, what we're trying to accomplish in that period of time," McCarthy said. "Our practice structure and what we've been able to accomplish in practice is a bit different. Every rep we achieve on the practice field, whether it's an individual drill, combination drill, group – you factor all those things in the training of your football team. Obviously, at the forefront of your decision is obviously being smart with Aaron.

"There's a lot of things you talk about. That's why you wait until you get all the information to make those final decisions on play time."

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