Packers’ Rodgers insists he’s playing against Jets
GREEN BAY, Wis. — A lost season coming to a close without a trip to the playoffs for the Green Bay Packers is ending in a familiar spot for Aaron Rodgers. He’s headed to the Pro Bowl for the seventh time in his career.
“Yeah, I think there’s a lot of pride with that. Especially knowing the struggles early in the season with my health, and I’m very appreciative,” Rodgers said Wednesday.
It has been quite the winding road for the Packers and their franchise quarterback since the season-opening win in September against the Chicago Bears. Rodgers hurt his left knee in that game before returning after halftime to lead Green Bay’s rousing 24-23 win following falling to a 20-point deficit.
The victory turned out to be the highlight for a disappointing year in Titletown.
Rodgers worked through the injury early in the season, missing practice at times to focus on rehab. Injuries to receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison meant more playing time for Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, rookies who hadn’t developed the kind of rapport veterans Cobb and Allison had with the quarterback.
Going into this weekend’s game against the New York Jets, Rodgers’ 61.8 percent completion rate was his lowest since his 60.7 rate in 2015, the year that then-top receiver Jordy Nelson was sidelined with a knee injury. The Packers (5-8-1) are 0-7 on the road, having led or been competitive in the second half in each of their last five road defeats before falling short.
Season-long struggles on third down and in the red zone helped contribute to the demise of coach Mike McCarthy, who was fired after a stunning 20-17 home loss on Dec. 2 to the lowly Arizona Cardinals.
Rodgers still set an NFL record after throwing 402 attempts without an interception, a streak that ended last week in the 24-17 loss at Chicago that helped extinguish Green Bay’s faint playoff hopes.
“I think there (are) a lot of teams in the National Football League that would love to have a quarterback with 23 touchdowns and two interceptions, and who’s battled through some things and provided leadership to the football team each and every week,” interim head coach Joe Philbin said.
Rodgers said he hurt his groin last week, though he played the whole game. A year ago, Rodgers sat out the final two weeks after a one-game return from a collarbone injury when the Packers were eliminated that week following a loss to Carolina.
Rodgers said he is playing this week, adding he was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
“Well, I think it’s a lot about leadership. If I want to be listened to and followed and looked up to, how could I stand here and say that ‘these games that don’t matter for playoffs, I’m going to cash it in,'” Rodgers said.
“That’s just not the way I lead, and I’m super competitive,” he added, “and I want to be out there with the guys, and I look forward to being out there.”
Another motivating factor to playing could be how close Davante Adams is to setting franchise receiving records. After reaching 100 catches for the first time in his career, Adams needs 13 over the final two games to break Sterling Sharpe’s mark for catches in a season.
At 1,315 yards receiving, Adams is 205 from breaking Nelson’s single-season yardage record set in 2014. Asked if he was keeping track, Adams said he wasn’t counting.
“That would be cool, we’ll see,” Adams said with a smile. “Hopefully A-Rod’s counting, so we’ll see.”
Adams was also voted to the Pro Bowl roster on Tuesday. It’s the second trip for Adams, but his first original selection.
NOTES: DL Kenny Clark, who missed last week’s game with an elbow injury, said he had not been told Wednesday that he was going to be placed on injured reserve, and that he would play if cleared. Clark, who has six sacks, is third on the team with 55 tackles. … RT Bryan Bulaga, who missed the last two games with a knee injury, practiced. He said he hopes to return on Sunday.