rodgers sideline 11-26

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers stands on the sideline during the second half of Sunday's loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis.

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GREEN BAY — Matt LaFleur has no doubt Aaron Rodgers will play Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, and the Green Bay Packers coach also sounds confident the quarterback will play well — even without a single practice snap all week.

Thanks to a fractured pinkie toe on his left foot, which Rodgers has said is extremely painful, he didn’t practice at all Wednesday, Thursday or Friday this week. Although he did take snaps during walk-through sessions each day, he will face the Rams defense and their star-studded pass rush without having taken a single full-speed practice rep.

“It’s been how it’s been going the past couple of weeks,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “The one thing that I’ll tell you is, my respect for him as a player goes up non-stop. Everybody talks about how he can throw the ball as good as he can, but his toughness is unbelievable. For him to do what he’s doing with this going on is awesome. We trust him a ton and know that he’s going to do whatever he needs to do to get ready for the game and to be able to go there. Just again, his toughness is unbelievable. That needs to be talked about even more with this guy. He’s a stud.”

As good as Rodgers may be, at least last week he was able to take about 15 snaps during the Friday practice in advance of the team’s 34-31 loss at Minnesota. Although Rodgers started slowly against the Vikings, he got in a rhythm during the second half, when he completed 10 of 11 passes (with the one incompletion being an intentional throw-away) for 197 yards and three touchdowns.

“Throughout the week last week, I was circling plays on the play sheet that I might want at least a walk-through rep of once we got later in the week,” Rodgers said at midweek when asked about how he and the coaches approached practices in advance of facing the Vikings. “We do walk-throughs every day, and so I’m obviously taking all of those. If I’m able to practice, I’ll definitely make sure we can hit some of those first-, second- and third-down plays on Friday when it’s just the red zone, and obviously Matt and Hack are very accommodating to that.”

The coaches do have Rodgers on the field as a spectator for all of the 11-on-11 reps the first-team offense takes, albeit with backup Jordan Love physically running the play.

LaFleur said he has Rodgers relay the calls on each play to Love over the helmet headset at practice so Rodgers is “just getting that practice of saying the play calls.” Then, after practice, Rodgers is going through what he sees on film of each play and pointing out alterations or adjustments to the coaches so they can communicate what he’s looking for from his teammates.

“It’s just making sure the communication’s on point in terms of making sure he’s comfortable with everything we’re putting in the plan and how we’re going to attack L.A.’s defense,” LaFleur said. “We feel comfortable with what we have in the game plan. Certainly, if we didn’t, we would have taken it out. We were hoping he would have been able to get some reps in on today, but that just wasn’t the case. And basically, we just want to make sure that he’s at his best possible self for Sunday in terms of just how he’s feeling.”

Rodgers’ practice work has been limited ever since the team’s Oct. 24 win over Washington. With a Thursday night game that next week, the Packers didn’t do any full-fledged practices before beating the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 28, and while Rodgers did take part in the team’s Nov. 1 practice, that wasn’t a full-speed workout, either. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 3, missed that week of practice leading into the Nov. 7 loss to Kansas City with Love at quarterback, and then didn’t practice at all while in quarantine before returning to the team one day before a Nov. 14 win over Seattle.

It was upon his return to the team headquarters on Nov. 13 that Rodgers found out his pinkie toe was fractured — he said it happened while he was working out while quarantined — and he only had those 15 Friday practice reps before facing the Vikings. Now, another week has passed with limited opportunities to prepare.

“You always want to practice. You always do,” Hackett said. “As coaches, we always want to practice. It makes us feel good, makes us like the plays or not like the plays. And sometimes when plays don’t go well, you have to sit there and wonder if they would’ve been better with him in there. From that standpoint, you still try to go in with whatever you think is going to be the best, whatever Aaron’s the most comfortable with.”

Health watch

The Packers listed running back Aaron Jones (knee), outside linebacker Rashan Gary (elbow) and wide receiver Allen Lazard (shoulder) as questionable for the Rams.

“We’ll just kind of see how they responded to practice today and see where they’re at on Sunday,” LaFleur said.

Asked again if having the bye week coming up might influence whether those players are given the go-ahead to play or if taking a cautious approach with an extra week of healing ahead might factor in, LaFleur replied: “I would say if guy’s cleared to play we’ll let him go. But you’re also mindful of what you have in front of you. Certainly, we never want to put somebody in a position where you could subject them to greater risk where they could be out for a longer period of time.”

LaFleur said Gary, who injured his elbow against Seattle and didn’t play against Minnesota, continues to look for a brace that can protect his elbow. Pain management also is an issue.

“I think it’s all of that,” LaFleur said. “It encompasses just his ability to protect it and the function of it.”

Extra points

Assistant offensive line coach Luke Butkus won’t coach against the Rams after being placed in the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols Friday. Offensive quality control coach Tim Zetts will assume Butkus’ game-day responsibilities. … After Rodgers showed off his left foot during a Zoom call Wednesday to show that he wasn’t suffering from “COVID Toe,” right tackle Billy Turner followed suit by putting his foot up atop the podium when his interview session ended on Friday. “You all don’t want to see my toe?” Turner asked playfully. … Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown took a question via Zoom from a reporter based in Germany on Friday and responded in German. St. Brown has dual US-Germany citizenship because his mother, Miriam, grew up in Germany and still speaks her native language — both verbally and in text messages — to her sons.

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This article originally ran on madison.com.

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