Rodgers' injury shows doc-player bond

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
6:45
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The meeting between Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Dr. Pat McKenzie last Friday could have escalated into an expletive-filled shouting match between a defiant player and the team physician who wouldn't clear him to play.

Except that it didn't.

As badly as Rodgers wanted to play -- and make no mistake about it, he wanted it badly -- he said Tuesday during his ESPN Milwaukee radio show that he never felt any anger toward McKenzie.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo and Aaron Rodgers
AP Photo/David StlukaAs much as Aaron Rodgers wanted to participate in the Packers' win over the Cowboys, he was never angry at team physician Pat McKenzie for not clearing him.
"Sadness definitely," Rodgers said on his show. "Sadness and frustrated but not anger."

Perhaps more than any other injury in recent history, the broken collarbone Rodgers sustained Nov. 4 has provided heretofore unseen insight into the relationship between Packers' players and McKenzie, who has been treating them since 1991.

"I trust him and care about him a lot as a friend and also as somebody who counsels me when I'm injured," Rodgers said of McKenzie. "We've always been able to have honest conversations, and I respect his honesty and that he cares about the guys so much, because he does. And sometimes those guys need to save you from yourself.

"That being said, I'm still a competitor, and I wanted to be out there."

Rodgers and McKenzie will have another meeting Wednesday to determine the quarterback's course of action this week and whether he can return for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rodgers said he does not expect to have another scan because he has "an idea what it's going to look like based on the previous one, the amount of days we have between scans [and can] project that forward to a similar amount of days."

The conversation this week might be more about risk-reward than anything else. With two games remaining, the Packers can make the playoffs if they beat the Steelers on Sunday and the Chicago Bears in Week 17.

Despite a scan last Thursday that did not give McKenzie the confidence to clear him, Rodgers said he "felt more like himself" in practice last week. The pain he experienced in practice the previous week did not appear to be a factor.

Rodgers plans to practice again Wednesday.

"This is maybe not be what people want to hear with it being dragged out and stuff, but this is how you have to go about the process because it's a combination of a lot of things," Rodgers said. "Obviously, there's strong opinions on what should happen, but the organization is going to do what's best by me, and I'm going to try to make it at least a conversation [about playing]."

That conversation must have been difficult because last Friday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, "Hey, it's not the easiest thing to sit there and tell your franchise quarterback he can't play in the game when he wants to play in the game. This is clearly a decision that's made in the best interest of Aaron Rodgers."

The Packers don't make McKenzie or any of their medical staff members available to the media and each team has a slightly different arrangement with their doctors, but most teams have their physicians on a retainer that is paid by the club. That might seem like an inherent conflict but if the team and the doctor share the goal of keeping the player healthy for the long term, then the relationship works, said a former NFL doctor.

"I think the role is to do what's right and to me, I've never found a conflict," said Dr. David Chao, who served as the San Diego Chargers team doctor for 17 years. "You need to do what's right and what's in the best interest for the player because the team's biggest assets are the players. So you've got to take care of them.

"You have to be honest with them and honest with the team. If you're a bank, your job is take care of the money. If you're a team doctor, your job is to take care of the players. The bank's assets is their money, and the team's assets are the players."

It's commonly known around the league the Packers take a more conservative approach with players returning from injury. Perhaps other doctors would have cleared Rodgers by now, but no doctors could say that for sure unless they were privy to all the information McKenzie has at his disposal.

"I've got a lot of respect and trust in Pat McKenzie, and I think he does an incredible job for us," Rodgers said. "It doesn't mean I'm not going to battle him, though."

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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