The Green Bay Packers haven't been the same team since star quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings a few weeks ago.
Since that game, the Packers are only 1-4 and have fallen from 4-2 to 5-6 and on the very outskirts of the playoff picture.
However, Rodgers has been making progress in his rehab process, and is potentially nearing a return to the field. Or, rather, he would be if the Packers didn't put him on injured reserve, which carries a mandatory six-week stay.
Linebacker Clay Matthews, who is returning from an injury himself, told ESPN.com that the Packers probably made a mistake putting Rodgers on IR, as he is healing much faster than anyone expected. Matthews added that he's been impressed with some of the throws he's seen from Rodgers:
"I think we probably should have kept him off IR," Matthews said. "The way he's coming along, some of the balls he's throwing, accuracy-wise, everything a quarterback has to do is pretty remarkable."
That's encouraging news for the Packers, but the problem is that Rodgers still has to miss a minimum of two more games before he's eligible to return to the field.
Matthews added that it's always a good thing to have Rodgers at the quarterback position, which may just be the understatement of the season:
"It would be really neat to see him out there, but unfortunately he'll have to wait two [more] weeks to [play]," Matthews said. "Who knows if it will give us a boost or a jolt? It’s always good when [Rodgers is on the field]."
The important thing for the Packers is to win the next couple of games, otherwise Rodgers will likely be held out as a precautionary measure.
Matthews said the Packers know that every game from here on out is a must-win game, so the pressure is on the players who are healthy to make sure Rodgers has something to play for when he returns:
"We have to win these next five," said Matthews. "I mean, that's the reality of it. I don't have any 'relax' one-liners or 'run the table' or whatever. I'll leave that up to Aaron. But that's the reality of it. We have to get it done. Part of that is if you're looking at the big picture, I know no game is bigger than the next one, but we have to win these next two and when Aaron's back at the helm, we have a pretty good squad. That's the reality of it. So, yeah, hopefully we get to see him because that means we're winning ballgames."
The Packers host the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, so if they win that game, they'll keep playoff hopes and hopes of getting Rodgers back this year alive for one more week.
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