GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers is about to play his fourth straight game with no (or very little) practice time during the week due to his fractured pinky toe.
But the Packers quarterback continues to stress in his communication with Head Coach Matt LaFleur and the other offensive assistants that he doesn't want the game plan pared back as a result of the injury or lack of reps.
"I don't want him to take anything away," Rodgers said Wednesday regarding LaFleur. "I don't think there will be any restrictions on anything come Sunday (against the Bears).
"It might be on Matt's mind, but every time we've talked, I always tell him that everything's in. There's nothing that we need to hold out."
It's a testament to Rodgers' on-field mastery and the coaches' trust in him that the team approaches game preparation this way despite his having practiced just once – and on a limited basis at that, on the Friday before the Vikings game in Week 11 – since returning from his stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
In fact, Rodgers' last full-speed practice in game-prep mode was all the way back on Friday, Oct. 22, prior to the Washington game in Week 7. The following week, all the workouts were at a walk-through pace for the Thursday night game at Arizona, and then he tested positive after a "bonus" practice on Monday, Nov. 1.
For his part, LaFleur said his focus in dealing with Rodgers' absence from practice is less about the parameters of the game plan and more about getting him into a "comfort zone" as quickly as possible when the game starts.
That process involves a collaboration amongst Rodgers, LaFleur, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and QB coach/passing game coordinator Luke Getsy to rank the plays in the game plan they have the most confidence in.
"Basically, the ones that we rank the highest collectively, we make sure we dial those up a little bit earlier," LaFleur said.
Rodgers' weekly routine has involved Wednesdays being rehab and mental prep days, followed by calling some plays in practice on Thursday and Friday for whoever's running them (Jordan Love or Kurt Benkert).
He admits it's "not the optimal way of doing things," and he'd certainly rather be practicing normally, but everyone's efforts are geared toward making the best of the challenge to allow his toe to heal as much as possible during the week.
The key really has been the communication leading up to the game, which Rodgers said has only gotten better the longer he and LaFleur have been together, which is almost three full seasons now.
"I think that's the growth of our relationship … is understanding what it takes for me to get into that headspace and understanding what I need," Rodgers said.
"When you get to Sunday, it's about him and I being on the same page, and him and I are on the same page when we're communicating and talking about the calls and what we like early, and Matt's always done a good job of incorporating me in those conversations and trying to pick plays that we both like and getting into a rhythm."
The offense started to hit its stride late in the first half of the Minnesota game, and it continued with steady production throughout the win over the Rams two weeks ago despite getting bogged down in the red zone a couple of times.
The hope is those were signs the best is yet to come now that the Packers have moved past their bye week and into the home stretch.
Rodgers said the bye was "really, really helpful" for his toe, and now that he's almost a full month removed from the initial injury, he's hoping any stress from playing Sunday won't undo any healing that's taken place.
Time will tell, and the plan barring any setbacks is to get back into a regular practice routine at some point. When exactly is to be determined.
In the meantime, the procedure that's in place has produced positive results to date – a 2-1 record in the last three games, with six TD passes and no interceptions the last two contests – and mitigated the less-than-ideal circumstances.
"It's easier for some guys," receiver Davante Adams said of playing well without practicing. "It works for him and we keep winning games. He can do whatever he's gotta do.
"Obviously, we want him healthy and able to practice, but if he can't, he'll keep balling doing what he's doing."