GREEN BAY Even as a former first-round backup, Matt LaFleur said he never considered resting Aaron Rodgers after his four-time MVP broke his thumb this season.
Rodgers confirmed Wednesday that he broke the thumb on his left hand during the last game of Week 5 against the New York Giants. He has played six games, throwing over 200 tackles, since the injury. Rodgers’ completion percentage is down five, from 67 before he broke his thumb to 62 since. His passer rating dropped from 95.7 before to 91.1 afterward.
Regardless, LaFleur said giving Jordan Love a start so Rodgers could rest his thumb for a week or two was never a move the team considered.
“Aaron is one of the strongest guys I’ve ever had, in terms of being able to fight through multiple injuries,” said Lafleur. Guys, he played much worse. He’s tough. “
Lafleur said the biggest challenge Rodgers’ broken thumb presented was the number of snaps he took under center during practice. Rodgers has been regularly rested by the Packers on Wednesdays, though he has become more present at training in recent weeks. Rodgers trained on Wednesday and Thursday this week while the Packers prepare to play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.
While Rodgers has dismissed his broken thumb as a reason for his diminished accuracy this season, LaFleur said the injury makes it “more difficult and challenging” for quarterbacks. When asked if Rodgers has been missing shorter throws this season, passes that have been virtually automatic for him in the past, are where a broken thumb has been particularly problematic, LaFleur said only that it could be a “potential” problem.
“When you’re a midfield player, and you have something wrong with your hand, it can create some hurdles,” said Lafleur. “He seems to maneuver around it mostly well.”
The biggest problem this week is a flu bug circulating in the locker room. Five players were on injury report with the name “illness” Wednesday. Kicker Mason Crosby, receiver Randall Cobb, safety Rudy Ford and rookie safety Tariq Carpenter returned to practice Thursday, though rookie offensive lineman Rasheed Walker remained.
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LaFleur said the flu bug is “very similar” to the same illness that swarmed the Packers locker room late in the 2019 season, and that memorably prevented former right tackle Brian Bolaga from starting in that season’s playoff game.
“It looked like everyone was getting sick,” LaFleur said. “But I think our medical staff is doing a good job of staying on top of these guys. If the guys had them — we’d test them for everything — and if they had the flu, we’d keep them out.”
New linebacker practices Justin Hollins
Justin Hollins had no problem getting to Green Bay from Los Angeles, even the week of Thanksgiving.
“It was amazing,” Hollins said. “The airport wasn’t as crowded. It was a lot quieter. It was nice, man. It’s green here too.”
The Packers claimed Hollins off waivers Wednesday, hoping to find reinforcements after losing Rashaan Gary for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Hollins had his first practice with the team on Thursday.
A Denver Broncos fifth round draft pick in 2019, he has spent the past three seasons with the Rams. He played under Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry with the Rams in 2020 when Barry was linebackers coach.
LaFleur hopes the familiarity will help Hollins adjust quickly, giving the Packers reinforcements in the wake of Gary’s injury.
Lafleur said, “I think he’s going to have a faster transition in terms of learning the terminology and understanding the basic concepts of the defense. So I’m hoping that gives him a chance to get out a little bit faster than maybe just somebody who’s not used to that style of system.”
Hollins said he’s hoping to get some snaps Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“There are a lot of deportations,” Hollins said. “There are different terms here and there, and of course he’s going to put his own spin on things. So I just have to adapt to that and deal with it well. It shouldn’t be hard.”
Freshman wide receiver Romeo Dobbs rehabbed on the sidelines during practices Thursday, a positive step in his return from an ankle injury. Dobbs had missed the previous two games after spraining his ankle early on November 6 during a loss in Detroit.
Tight ends Robert Tonian and Mercedes Lewis did not practice on Thursday. Tonian was out due to illness, while Lewis had a veteran’s day off, as is customary for a veteran on a Thursday.
Inside linebacker DeVonder Campbell also missed training with a knee injury.
“He’s making progress,” LaFleur said. “Every situation is a little different.”