Aaron Rodgers’ return opens up options for Packers
Quarterback back in the lineup for division title game against Bears
The Associated Press
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The buffet line is open again for the Packers’ offense with Aaron Rodgers back.
Coach Mike McCarthy has made a few adjustments to the playbook with the franchise quarterback back for the first time in nearly two months after breaking his left collarbone. Rodgers is expected to start Sunday in Green Bay’s showdown in Chicago with the Bears for the NFC North title.
Keeping Rodgers untouched and upright is as paramount as ever. At the same time, the return of Rodgers figures to give the Bears’ defense a dilemma that hasn’t existed for Packers opponents in nearly two months — focus on the passing game at the expense of giving 1,100-yard rusher Eddie Lacy more room, or stop the run and give Rodgers more room to operate.
“Well, it’s a lot like going to the restaurant. You have a menu. You decide what you want to use and what you probably shouldn’t use,” McCarthy said.
“You have to trust your plan, trust the process and we definitely trust Aaron Rodgers.”
It’s hard not to after Rodgers helped lead Green Bay (7-7-1) to a 5-2 record before getting hurt Nov. 4.
McCarthy said Rodgers has looked good in his first couple days as a full practice participant this week since before the injury.
“The decision’s been made. Obviously, it was a thorough one, and it’s time for Aaron to play,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to cut him loose and we’re going to go play. We’re going to play to win.”
Chiefs, 49ers top Pro Bowl
The NFL revealed the Chiefs and 49ers are tops with each having eight players voted into the Pro Bowl.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning was selected to his 13th Pro Bowl after receiving the most votes among fans, 1.43 million. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees was second among fans with 1.2 million votes. The NFL combines votes from fans, players and coaches.
• Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson was fined $60,000 by the NFL for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Rams wide receiver Stedman Bailey last Sunday. The fine is the fourth this season for Goldson, a former Husky. Goldson also was suspended one game without pay for a hit on Atlanta’s Roddy White last month.
• The Bears announced a four-year extension with kicker Robbie Gould. A person familiar with the situation said the deal is worth $15 million and includes more than $9 million guaranteed.
• The 49ers placed wide receiver Mario Manningham on season-ending injured reserve as a result of a knee injury.
• Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has a concussion and linebacker Tamba Hali has a swollen knee, and both have been ruled out for Sunday at San Diego.
• The Jaguars signed defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks to a four-year contract extension worth a reported $22 million.
• Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has missed practice and will be questionable with a knee injury. He has 10½ sacks this season.
• Receiver/kick returner Tavon Austin returned to the Rams’ practice. Austin has not practiced since he injured his ankle Dec. 8.
• Vikings running back Adrian Peterson looks as if he won’t play Sunday. He has tried to play through a sprained right foot and a lingering groin injury, but he is doubtful for the final regular-season game against Detroit.
• Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has had surgery after aggravating a right thumb injury.
• Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel won’t start at New England because of a small tear in a left knee ligament that will not require surgery. Backup Thad Lewis will start Sunday.
• Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith has been ruled out for Sunday with a knee injury. Jonathan Stewart (knee), out of Lacey, and defensive tackle Colin Cole (calf) will not play either.