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No timetable given for Rodgers' return

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By Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
November 6, 2013

GREEN BAY--Twenty-one years, 346 games and two Lambeau Field renovations have passed since Don Majkowski stood on the sideline at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, unable to play because of torn ligaments in his left ankle.

It was the last time a Green Bay Packers starting quarterback sat out two consecutive games.

On Nov. 17, it finally will happen again.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be the one on the sideline and this time it will be at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. There won’t be a strapping young buck named Brett Favre there to steal his job and hold it for the next 15 years, but the feeling will be the same.

Rodgers won’t return to his position under center because of a broken left collarbone he suffered on the first series of the Packers’ 27-20 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night at Lambeau Field.

No timetable was given for his return, but Rodgers won’t play this week against Philadelphia and quite possibly the next three or four weeks after that. Even though it doesn’t appear to be a displaced fracture, he would risk exactly that if he were to land on his left side the way he did Monday night.

“It’s a difficult injury because there’s not a specific type of rehab you can do for this,” Rodgers said Tuesday on his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee. “It’s not like you can get a massage or ‘stim’ (electrical stimulation) or the different various treatments that they have out there that can try to get you back quicker.

“You just have to wait for the bone to heal. That’s going to be the frustrating part, but I feel like I’ve been a quick healer in the past and am hopeful this will be on the short end of whatever prognosis comes up.”

Two shoulder specialists said it is vital that the fracture—even if it is just a crack in the bone, which Rodgers’ injury appears to be—heal completely or the quarterback would be at risk for a more serious injury to the collarbone, one that would end his season.

Both said the standard recovery time for any broken bone is four to eight weeks, but without seeing Rodgers’ test results they could not predict whether he would be on the short end of that time frame. Based on the way Rodgers landed and was treated after the injury occurred, both suspected it was a hairline fracture.

At his news conference Tuesday, coach Mike McCarthy refused to provide a timetable for Rodgers’ return, but said after additional tests were taken Tuesday there was a feeling among the medical staff that the outlook was better than expected.

“I’m relieved, no doubt,” McCarthy said. “You talk to the doctors after the game, talk to Aaron after talking to the doctors, (I) felt better talking to Aaron than I did talking to our medical staff.

“With the new information that was given today, everybody felt better about it. How long? We don’t have our hands around a timeline yet, but I know Aaron is very optimistic and he’ll do everything he can to get back in a timely fashion.”

McCarthy and his staff began preparations for 33-year-old backup Seneca Wallace to make his first start since Jan. 1, 2012, as a member of the Cleveland Browns. Wallace sat out last year after the Browns cut him, and he signed with the Packers on Sept. 2 when it was clear the two young quarterbacks they had been developing as backups—Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman—weren’t worthy of making the roster.

Wallace took over after Rodgers was injured Monday and completed 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards with one interception and four sacks. He led the Packers on three scoring drives, but two of them featured long running plays that accounted for most or all of the yards.

To back up Wallace, the Packers were finalizing a contract that would elevate practice squad quarterback Scott Tolzien, a former Wisconsin player, to the 53-man roster, an NFL source said. The Packers had the option of signing their former backup quarterback, Matt Flynn, who cleared waivers after the Buffalo Bills released him Monday, but they appear sold on Tolzien.

Rodgers, who has missed one game in his career due to injury (concussion in 2010) will not be able to aggressively attack his rehab because it is more important for him to let the bone heal than to retain strength in his shoulder. The injury he suffered occurred when Bears defensive end Shea McClellin landed on top of Rodgers with all his weight, driving the quarterback’s shoulder into the ground.

“I got kind of grabbed there by Shea and tried to get away,” Rodgers said on the radio. “He kind of bear-hugged me and there was a forceful throw-down maybe a tad quicker than I thought, and my arm got caught underneath me there.”

According to Chris P. O’Grady, orthopaedic surgeon for the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, the force applied to the shoulder is what caused the bone to break and not necessarily a direct hit on the collarbone.

“There’s a lot of force that’s transmitted through the AC (acromioclavicular) joint and a lot of times you’ll get a shoulder separation,” O’Grady said. “I think if you were to bet based on the mechanism he had, most people would have thought that was the case.

“Sometimes those forces transmit through and the collarbone under the force of that pressure will bend a little bit and it will break. Often times, it’s an obvious displaced fracture.”

The Packers experienced that injury twice with safety Charles Woodson and the second time he was out for nine weeks. Based on the way Rodgers was able to move around and jog off the field, both doctors doubted he had that type of injury.

Typically, both said, the force of the blow can cause a crack or hairline fracture in the center of the collarbone. Regardless of what it is called, it is still a broken bone and requires about a month or more to heal.

“It’s all the same whether they call it a crack or a fracture or a break,” said Nikhil Verma, associate professor of orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center. “I think if it’s a legitimate crack it’s going to be four to six weeks before you’re comfortable that that bone is healed sufficiently to reliably provide strength to avoid re-injury.

“I know the initial reports were three weeks, but that seems aggressive. That’s optimistic in my mind.”

After about three weeks, and sometimes sooner, pain dissipates and the patient is able to work on range of motion. In Rodgers’ case, he is dealing with his non-throwing shoulder and so there is no process he needs to go through to get back to throwing the football.

Rodgers may be shooting for a return Thanksgiving Day at Detroit, and while that may be possible, both doctors said it’s vital that the injury be completely healed before he is cleared.

“There’s a real chance that if they let him go back early and it wasn’t completely healed and he took another hit and landed on his shoulder, then he could break it and this time displace it and have a more significant break,” Verma said. “There’s a fine line there.”

Said O’Grady: “The most telling sign will be whether there is any tenderness at the fracture site—meaning if you press right on where that crack is, if there is any pain whatsoever, it’s a sign that things are not yet healed.”



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