Starter Pack: Rodgers and the rust factor

A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Since he became the Packers' starting quarterback in 2008, the longest in-season layoff Aaron Rodgers had ever experienced before this season was two weeks.

In 2011, he sat out the meaningless regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions and then had another weekend off because the top-seeded Packers had a first-round playoff bye before losing in the NFC divisional playoff round to the New York Giants.

When Rodgers takes the first snap in Sunday’s game at the Chicago Bears, it will have been nearly two months since he last played.

Although Rodgers has been practicing for a month on a limited basis, Thursday was the first time he was a full participant since he broke his collarbone on Nov. 4 in this season’s first meeting with the Bears.

“I think you saw a natural progression there,” Packers quarterback coach Ben McAdoo said. “When he came back, he really didn’t look rusty. There were some things he had to get used to and comfortable with again, but I think you saw a nice, natural progression there.”

Even before he was given the green light on Thursday to return, several of his teammates have raved about how Rodgers looked in practice.

“But I’m sure if I miss a pass, that’s going to be because I’m rusty, or if I hit one then it’s going to be a big deal or something,” Rodgers said. “It’s about preparation for me, going through the practice reps like I did [Thursday] and [Friday], then getting ready to play.”

Footwork and timing might be the toughest thing to get back. That got Matt Flynn into trouble a few times, including last Sunday when he collided with tight end Andrew Quarless and threw an interception that Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen returned for a touchdown.

“Aaron is a seasoned pro, extremely productive, knows the offense inside and out, it’s just really getting back into the little things,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s always the little things. It’s a little thing that caught Matt Flynn against Pittsburgh on the interception. It’s just getting back into the fine details of the offense. But as far as throwing the ball, moving around with his feet, all the things he does and has done for a long time, I’m not really concerned about that.”

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:

  • There were many angles to Rodgers’ return, including a look at how it could elevate the play of those around him.

  • Bears reporter Michael C. Wright talked to several key members of the Bears about whether this changes their plans for Sunday’s game. (By the way, both Wright and I changed our predictions on Sunday’s game following the Rodgers announcement. Those can be found in our Double Coverage preview).

  • Columnist Jeffri Chadiha wrote that with Rodgers, the Packers not only will win Sunday but could be poised for a long playoff run.

  • In an ESPN Insider piece, Field Yates broke down Rodgers’ return from an Xs and Os standpointInsider.

  • In some non-Rodgers news, receiver Randall Cobb took another step toward returning from his fractured right tibia, and it might not be out of the question that he could return on Sunday, too. All the details can be found in the daily injury report.


  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde wrote that although neither McCarthy nor Rodgers ever used the words “medically cleared” on Thursday, a Packers spokesman said Rodgers’ return was a “unified decision” by general manager Ted Thompson, Dr. Pat McKenzie, McCarthy and Rodgers.

  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, columnist Mike Vandermause believes the return of Rodgers changes everything for the Packers, who suddenly look like a legitimate playoff team. Pete Dougherty’s notebook led with news about running back Eddie Lacy, who is expected to play on Sunday despite his recurring ankle injury.

  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tom Silverstein wrote that the return of Rodgers sets up a “pick-your-poison type situation” for defenses trying to defend both the passing game and the running game.