GREEN BAY, Wis. — This might be the last anyone hears of Aaron Rodgers’ toe.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback made it sound like his toe injury won’t be an issue in the playoffs. One sign of that came on Wednesday, when Rodgers took part in the first of two practices the team will hold during their playoff-week bye.
It wasn’t until last week that he even practiced more than one day during the week since he fractured his left pinkie toe in early November while he was quarantined because of COVID-19.
Rodgers, who had been getting regular pain-killing injections to make it through games, said he has not needed one recently. The last reference he made to one was after the game against the Cleveland Browns on Christmas Day, when he said the toe got stepped on in the first half. “Took care of it at halftime and obviously felt better,” he said after the game.
“I haven’t taken one in a number of weeks now, so that’s been the most encouraging thing,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “Got through last week without doing one. It was just a pretty standard shot in the toe, very painful, a numbing agent. That helped get me through the games. The whole goal was to be able to not have to do that. It’s been a few games without doing that. So I’m feeling good, practiced today, close to 100% but think I should be 100% by next week.”
Rodgers played only in the first half of Sunday’s regular-season finale at the Detroit Lions, a 37-30 loss that did not impact the Packers’ playoff seeding. They had clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC the previous week. Coach Matt LaFleur scheduled practices this week for today and Thursday and will give the players the weekend off. It’s possible they may not know their opponent for the divisional-round game until Monday night after the final wild-card game.
Rodgers said his goal this week is simple.
“Rest,” he said. “Rest. I mean, I’m about to go home, and it’s what, 12:22 [in the afternoon]? That’s pretty frickin’ sweet. So I’m going to enjoy this rest. I’m sure many people, hopefully it’s not just me, I’ve still got a semi-messy house post-Christmas and New Year’s, and it’s the end of the season, so you don’t have time for that. So I’m going to clean my house, I’m going to rest, I’m going to read some books, and I’m going to relax. That’s what I’m getting out of this week.”
As expected, the Packers got outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith back at practice on Wednesday for the first time since he had back surgery following the season opener. He took part in all drills during the portion of practice open to the media. He has played only 18 snaps this season in first-year coordinator Joe Barry’s defense.
“We’re just trying to get him to a position where we feel comfortable, where not only can he go out there and compete at a high level, but also he hasn’t been really in the system other than one game,” LaFleur said. “So we’ve got to make sure he understands his job responsibility first and foremost because as we’ve seen so many times throughout the course of the season, when we have all 11 guys on the same page doing their responsibility and owning their roles, I think our defense can be pretty good. And if you have some undisciplined play, then you get beat. I think we just want to re-acclimate him into practice and see how that goes and see how it all meshes before we solidify our plan. Luckily we not only have this week but we have next week to continue to get him up to speed, so to speak.”
Another offensive lineman, right tackle Billy Turner, returned to practice. He hasn’t played in a month, first because of a knee injury and then because of COVID. This comes after the return of center Josh Myers and left tackle David Bakhtiari for the regular-season finale. However, Bakhtiari did not practice on Wednesday because of what the team called “load management” on his reconstructed left knee.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who left last week’s game because of a back injury, did not practice Wednesday but fellow receiver Randall Cobb continued his attempted return from core muscle surgery by practicing again and appears to be on track to return for the first playoff game.