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Sunday, December 22, 2013
Aaron Rodgers wasn't close to return

By Chris Mortensen and Rob Demovsky
ESPN.com

Even though the Green Bay Packers waited until Friday to rule out Aaron Rodgers for the seventh straight game, the star quarterback apparently wasn't as close to coming back as it may have appeared.

Rodgers' fractured left collarbone still showed "extraordinary risk" if he returned to the field on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, sources told ESPN.

Rodgers practiced in a limited fashion this past week. He split snaps with Matt Flynn on Wednesday, but his participation tapered on Thursday, when it became clear the Packers were again preparing Flynn to start against the Steelers.

Upon ruling out Rodgers on Friday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy repeated several times during a short news conference that it was "an organizational decision."

McCarthy used that term at the insistence of Rodgers, who wanted an emphasis placed on his toughness, according to sources. One driving force behind McCarthy's message was Rodgers' sensitivity that his injury absence would be compared to Brett Favre's reputation for toughness, which created palpable tension between the coach and quarterback, a source told ESPN.

It has been seven weeks since Rodgers was injured on Nov. 4 against the Chicago Bears.

"Just as I've stated all along, we've got two different circumstances here," McCarthy said Friday. "We've got Aaron Rodgers' health, and obviously where we are as a football team.

"Until we feel good about where Aaron is medically, that will not be part of the second circumstance. So as an organization, we are not ready for him to play."

Sources told ESPN that McCarthy clearly understood Dr. Patrick McKenzie's unwillingness to give Rodgers' medical clearance and there was no real organizational decision about it. It was a medical decision.

The Packers (7-6-1) will clinch the NFC North title if they win their final two regular-season games.

After going winless in their first four games without Rodgers, the Packers have won their last two contests in large part due to Flynn, who helped Green Bay erase a 23-point halftime deficit in last week's victory over the Dallas Cowboys.