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Packers QB Aaron Rodgers not concerned about knee injury

Green Bay’s offense has found a better level of play lately

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed practice Wednesday due to a knee injury from getting sacked in Miami, but he doesn't expect it to keep him off the field at all the rest of the week.

"I think I'll be out there (Thursday) … business as usual," Rodgers said following the first day of on-field preparations for this Sunday's home game vs. Minnesota.

The injury occurred on a second-quarter sack near Green Bay's goal line in the second quarter on Christmas, when a Dolphins defender landed awkwardly on Rodgers' knee.

Rodgers played the rest of the game without incident but could tell fluid was building up in the knee on the plane flight back. He's been rehabbing since and took "a nice little veteran day" Wednesday to rest it, working with the training staff during the early portion of practice before heading out to the field to observe the second half.

In addition to the knee, Rodgers' thumb injury is still listed on the team's injury report, but the injury to his ribs from the Philadelphia game a month ago is not. Regardless, he fully expects to play against the Vikings as the Packers' playoff hopes continue to hang in the balance.

He's also hoping his good friend and All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari might be returning from his appendectomy this week. Bakhtiari practiced on a limited basis for the first time Wednesday since the surgery four weeks ago, though his status for Sunday's game remains uncertain.

"It would be great to have him out there," Rodgers said. "When he's been out there, he's been playing at an All-Pro level, which is what we've known from him for a long time. So, it definitely can give us a little jolt if he's out there."

Right tackle Yosh Nijman, who exited the Miami game with a shoulder injury, also was back at practice on a limited basis. Rookie receiver Christian Watson (hip) and nickelback/returner Keisean Nixon (groin) did not practice, however, and are considered day to day.

The health questions aren't ideal at this stage, with the Packers needing to win their last two games to stretch their winning streak to five – and hope for a little help – to land a playoff spot.

The team clearly turned a corner a few weeks ago, though, beginning with a strong fourth quarter at Chicago to rally for a win over the Bears. That was followed by a victory over the Rams that Green Bay controlled mostly start to finish, and then a dominant second half at Miami to knock off the playoff-contending Dolphins.

The offense had shown signs of life prior to the winning streak, too, with the fourth-quarter rally against Dallas in Week 10 and a productive performance in a shootout loss at Philadelphia in Week 12.

In many respects, outside of the fourth quarter vs. Tennessee in Week 11 and the first quarter at Chicago in Week 13, Green Bay's offense has performed pretty well for an extended stretch now. Rodgers feels that has changed the outlook for the defense as well, which has gone through its own ups and downs.

"Our inconsistency has put our defense into tough spots, and the way we've turned the football over and been bad in situational football hasn't been winning football," Rodgers said of the losses that piled up earlier in the year.

"But the last I'd say five or six weeks offensively we've been a lot better, and maybe that confidence that we've carried with us gives the defense a little more confidence they're not going to have to hold them to 17 to win a football game. We've been definitely outpacing that number the last few weeks."

Minnesota's defensive numbers haven't looked good for a while, as the Vikings have surrendered 400-plus yards to six of their last seven opponents. Yet they've still won five of those games thanks to an explosive offense and clutch play on both sides of the ball late in games.

The key against the Vikings could be finishing drives, which the Packers struggled to do at Miami, settling for two field goals in goal-to-go situations, and another in the red zone. And for all the yards the Vikings have given up, three of those opponents were still held to 26 or fewer points.

Green Bay certainly had opportunities to top 30 points last week and would've topped 30 the week before if not for taking a knee on the 1-yard line to close out the win over the Rams.

The Packers' defense also has generated eight turnovers during the current three-game winning streak, which speaks to how its play has ratcheted up when the offense is producing.

Can it all come together when the Packers need it most? That would be ideal.

"I said it a while ago, I feel like we can beat anybody," Rodgers said. "There's been times where we look like we can lose to anybody, too, this season. So hopefully we come out and keep playing the way we've been playing."