Green Bay Packers
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Packers may get back Rodgers this week
Back in 2010, Aaron Rodgers returned after missing the majority of two full games late in the season with a concussion, then led the Green Bay Packers to six straight wins and an eventual Super Bowl title.
In 2013, Rodgers came back after missing nearly eight full games with a broken left collarbone and led the Packers to the NFC North title.
The Packers are hoping for more magic in 2017. Whether or not that's a possibility comes down to a CT scan.
Rodgers underwent a bone density exam and CT scan Monday on his broken right collarbone. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy expects the results no later than Tuesday, and if everything checks out, Rodgers could be back in the lineup Sunday against Carolina.
"It is now in the evaluation stage," McCarthy said. "Dr. (Pat) McKenzie is reviewing it. There's a number of medical opinions that will be involved and a decision, so at this time I do not have a clean decision for you or an update. That's where it stands."
Rodgers suffered the broken collarbone on Oct. 15 in Minnesota after being hit by Vikings outside linebacker Anthony Barr. Rodgers underwent surgery on Oct. 19 that required several plates and screws and was placed on injured reserve the following day.
Rodgers' recovery has seemingly gone without a hitch.
Rodgers was throwing balls as far as 50 yards in Pittsburgh on Nov. 26, and he returned to practice on Dec. 2. In the past week, there have been no setbacks whatsoever.
"Frankly, obviously, we'd like to make a decision as soon as possible," McCarthy said. "Obviously, the offensive staff's in the process of putting together a game plan, but at the end of the day, the organization is focused on doing what's in the best interest of Aaron Rodgers."
Green Bay defeated Cleveland, 27-21, in overtime Sunday and remained in the playoff hunt. Afterward, many of Rodgers' teammates sounded extremely optimistic that the two-time MVP quarterback would be back under center in Carolina.
"Well if he comes back, like I've been saying, arguably the best quarterback in the league, back to your team, everyone is going to get better," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. "Not only him being out there, but also the shot in the arm as we talk about him coming back.
"Watching him in practice and what he's been able to do these past couple weeks, getting more and more reps in practice and throwing on the pads, I think it's a good sign. I'm not going to speak on his behalf, but we sure hope he's ready and if he is, we're going to expect the Aaron of old."
Added left tackle David Bakhtiari: "It's going to be fun having him back."
There would have been no point in bringing Rodgers back had Green Bay (7-6) lost to Cleveland (0-13) Sunday. Instead, the Packers rallied from a two-touchdown, fourth-quarter deficit and notched their third overtime win of the year.
Green Bay remained in a tie for eighth place in the NFC, but is just one game behind Seattle and Atlanta (both 8-5) for the final wild-card spot.
"We've got a chance," Bakhtiari said. "We know what the magic number is. We still have everything in front of us, so when (Rodgers) comes back ... we're in playoff football. We've already talked about that, and these games matter. It's go time."
It's "go time" largely because No. 2 quarterback Brett Hundley was terrific at crunch time.
On Green Bay's final four possessions, Hundley led the Packers on three touchdown drives. Hundley went 21-of-25 for 147 yards on those drives and threw a touchdown pass to Davante Adams that tied the game, and another to Adams that won the contest.
"I just think that those clutch situations, when it calls for somebody to step up and make a play, that's what kind of brings out the best in him," Adams said of Hundley. "You can see it in his eyes, you can see it in the huddle. He commands the huddle really well in those situations. For the young guys, it's really impressive to see that."
Hundley finished the day 35-of-46 for 265 yards, three touchdown passes, no interceptions and had a 111.2 passer rating. In addition, Hundley stepped through several sacks and ran for 31 yards on seven carries.
"He got to run, manage a wide-open offense and that was the first time we really cut it loose like that," McCarthy said of Hundley. "But he plays his best football when the game is on the line. You can't teach that. He's a winner."
If Rodgers does return - and Hundley heads back to the bench - it's hard to argue with his body of work.
NFL brass will tell you they are thrilled when their backup quarterback can go .500. After posting back-to-back overtime wins against Tampa Bay and Cleveland, Hundley improved to 3-4 as a starter (.429).
"My No. 1 thought going into it was keep our hopes alive to make the playoffs and we're still in it," Hundley said. "At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens. I'm just here. When my number's called upon, I'll be ready. But in the meantime, that was my No. 1 goal and we're still in it. Yeah, so, let's keep rolling."
Interestingly, Hundley was horrendous at Lambeau Field where he went 1-3. Hundley didn't throw a touchdown at home, threw five interceptions and had a 57.0 passer rating.
Hundley was a different player on the road, though, where he went 2-1. Hundley threw seven touchdown passes, had no interceptions, completed 72.7 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 117.3.
"Brett is just a grinder," Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson said. "He doesn't get down on himself, and he's had a lot thrown at him in this situation.
"He stayed steady throughout the whole thing and it shows why he was successful at UCLA and why he'll be successful in this league. He stays level-headed."
Which has kept the Packers in the playoff hunt - and kept the door ajar for Rodgers to return.
"This team has a lot of fight, I'll tell you that," Hundley said. "We're not out of this thing. We have a lot of fight in us. These two last games, we fought back. When we needed to execute, we executed. When our backs were against the wall, we came out swinging. We've done it for the last two weeks - came up short (against) the Steelers. This team has a lot of fight and it's not over yet."