Aaron Rodgers’ last trip to Minnesota altered the course of a promising season for the Green Bay Packers.
He broke his right collarbone in Week 6 in 2017 on a hit out of the pocket by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. After a 4-1 start, the Packers stumbled the rest of the way and missed the playoffs.
Maybe things will change for the better this time for the Packers when Rodgers returns to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, his first road game against the Vikings since the collarbone injury. At 4-5-1, the Packers desperately need a win to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“Yeah, obviously I think about that day, it was a tough day, especially going out there early in the game and the way we were rolling on offense and as a team through the first five games,” Rodgers said after practice Wednesday. “But I feel good. My body feels good.”
Different season, different injury.
Rodgers is getting better after hurting his left knee in the season opener this year against Chicago. In his first game after that injury in Week 2, the Packers and Vikings tied at 29 .
There have been challenging times since then for Green Bay. Rodgers’ mobility was initially limited after the injury, but that has improved.
“I’m able to move around the way I want to move around. It’s been a frustrating season at times injury-wise,” Rodgers said. “But you don’t think about getting hurt. You just think about playing and trying to avoid some of those hits outside the pocket.”
The Packers are winless in five road games this season. Part of the problem is they haven’t been consistent in third-down situations. (19th in NFL). Now they face the league’s best defense on third down.
“We want to win games and we’ve won a lot around here. We’ve got to find a way to get back on track,” receiver Randall Cobb said this week.
Not having Cobb in the lineup of late because of a hamstring injury has taken away a trusted option. Cobb might be closer to returning after being limited in practice on Wednesday.
“Well it hurts Randall not playing,” Rodgers said. “His ability in the slot is why he’s stuck around the league for so long, and will long after this year.”
Tight end Jimmy Graham broke a thumb during the first half of last week’s loss at Seattle, though coach Mike McCarthy has said that Graham intends to try to play through the injury. Receiver Geronimo Allison is also on injured reserve with a groin issue.
That’s three of Rodgers’ top targets hurt, meaning the Packers have had to rely on rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown more in the passing game.
Jake Kumerow, a star in training camp who showed chemistry with Rodgers before the receiver landed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, returned to practice Wednesday. He could be a step closer to being activated.
“He’s a talented guy and I think most of us were wondering if he was going to be back on the field this year,” Rodgers said.
S Kentrell Brice (ankle) was a limited participant. Among those missing practice were CB Bashaud Breeland (groin), S Raven Greene (ankle), CB Kevin King (hamstring) and LB Nick Perry (knee).