GREEN BAY, Wis. — If Aaron Rodgers plays Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings — and that remains an if — coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t want his quarterback to take the kind of punishment he did in his return from his collarbone injury on Sunday.
Rodgers was sacked three times and took seven hits from the Carolina Panthers during his first game in two months.
“Aaron Rodgers is sore — rightfully so,” McCarthy said Monday evening. “He was hit too many times, took two big hits. So we’re working through that. So we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
By then, the Packers (7-7) will know if they have any chance at the postseason. Their streak of eight straight playoff appearances will end if the Atlanta Falcons beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football.
McCarthy wouldn’t say if that would impact his decision to play Rodgers in either of the final two games.
“Well, we’re obviously watching the game tonight,” McCarthy said. “It impacts our opportunity to move forward, so you’re definitely aware of it. We treated today as a Tuesday with the coaching staff, no different for our players. They were all in here pretty much getting treatment and going through the weight room and strength and conditioning. We’re going to start having a little lighter start tomorrow, and we’re on a six-day week. But our preparation is getting ready to beat Minnesota. That’s our focus.”
Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in Sunday’s 31-24 loss but also had his first three-interception game since 2009. He completed 26 of 45 passes in his first game since Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr hit him and broke his right clavicle. Rodgers underwent surgery and was brought back off injured reserve at the earliest possible mark last week.
Rodgers said after the game that he was “disappointed in my performance … I obviously didn’t play very well.”
McCarthy wasn’t nearly as critical.
“I thought [he] did a lot of good things,” McCarthy said. “I think when you see him come back and not playing for two months, there’s so many things he makes look easy. For the most part, a number of throws, the plays he made with his feet, the awareness of plays, handling short-yardage situations, fourth-and-1, just a lot of critical decisions that he made in the game. We obviously did a lot more at the line of scrimmage with run-pass calls.
“They played us extremely aggressive — as aggressive as anybody played us all year. Handling that challenge. … If you go through it and you look at the three interceptions, two of them were like long punts. Those were all throws he’s made throughout his career. I think it was just a product of not playing for as long as he has because he’s made those throws. Those are routine throws for him. I thought he did a lot of really good things.”
The Packers re-signed backup quarterback Joe Callahan on Monday, which could be an indication that they will play Brett Hundley the rest of the way if they are eliminated from the postseason.