GREEN BAY, Wis. — Unless Aaron Rodgers makes a miraculous recovery in the next few days, the Green Bay Packers won’t be making a change at quarterback as they look to snap their three-game losing streak.
“Scott Tolzien will start this week,” coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “Scott Tolzien will go into the week as the starter, just like he did last week.”
Notice that McCarthy’s statement began with certainty regarding Tolzien and seconds later opened up some breathing room in case Rodgers is medically cleared sooner than expected. It’s only been two weeks since Rodgers broke his left collarbone on the first drive against the Chicago Bears, and the initial timeline for his return was projected to be between 4-6 weeks.
“Frankly, I haven’t met with the medical staff yet, so I haven’t been given an update on where they think Aaron is,” McCarthy said.
Rodgers was the special guest on the Packers Live television show Monday night and said, “I’m going to be back when I’m ready, when there’s a very low risk of re-injuring it.” That time is almost certainly still weeks away.
Despite Green Bay’s recent struggles — which not coincidentally started when Rodgers was injured, the Packers weren’t planning to let their franchise quarterback talk his way onto the field unless the medical staff was fully comfortable with that decision.
“We all understand the importance of players returning from injury, the anxiousness of any player to get back on the field,” McCarthy said. “But that’s always a collective conversation — the medical staff, the player, and really I don’t make medical decisions. That will be no different with Aaron Rodgers.
“We all know he wants to play. He wants to play as soon as he can, but those are big decisions when you put a player back on the field. When everybody’s confident, then that’s when it will happen.”
Tolzien started his first NFL game Sunday in Green Bay’s road loss to the New York Giants. Just a couple weeks removed from being on the practice squad, Tolzien completed 24-of-34 passes for 339 yards. But it was the three interceptions — one of which was returned for a defensive touchdown — that turned an otherwise quality performance into one with costly errors.
McCarthy, like he was after Tolzien took over for an injured Seneca Wallace in a Week 10 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, was effusive with praise for his third-string-turned-starting quarterback.
“I’ll say this: Our big-play production, I have never seen a quarterback hit all his big throws like that in a game,” McCarthy said. “That was the most impressive big-play, big-pass play production from a quarterback . . . I was talking to Scott and going through his grading session this morning, and I can’t think of another time in my career that I’ve had someone hit every one. Every big shot we called (Sunday), we hit them. Excellent protection, took a couple of hits on the throws, but the ball placement was extraordinary.”
While Tolzien didn’t throw a touchdown pass, he had five big plays that accounted for 177 yards of production. He connected on a 52-yard pass with Jarrett Boykin, had 25-yard and 29-yard completions to Jordy Nelson, found James Jones for 45 yards and had one pass to tight end Brandon Bostick for 26 yards.
With a 5-5 record and having fallen to 10th place in the NFC standings, the Packers are desperate for wins to start pouring in again. Green Bay hosts the Minnesota Vikings — a team that is tied for the worst record in the NFC — in Week 12.
“Extremely important football game this week,” McCarthy said. “We need to play better, we need to perform better, we need to prepare better. This is a very, very accountable football team. It’s an enjoyable team to coach, we’re just not quite where we need to be right now. We’ve had some peaks and valleys in our fundamental areas of emphasis. Some of them have spiked up in a negative nature the last couple of weeks, and we’ll continue to work on those things, and I’m confident that our staff, we’re going to put together a heck of a plan for our players.
“This is a victory we expect to win, and we’ll do everything that is necessary to win this football game.”