Aaron Rodgers was cleared to return from a left collarbone injury, just in time to start Sunday for the Green Bay Packers against the Chicago Bears in a game to decide the NFC North title.
With no advance warning and little fanfare, the franchise quarterback received the long-awaited good news at the same time as the rest of his teammates Thursday.
“This is a fun day for me, but I think the focus needs to be on this game and the opportunity we have to win the division,” Rodgers said.
Soon enough. But the spotlight for now is squarely on the return of one of the NFL’s most irreplaceable players.
Green Bay (7-7-1) is 2-5-1 since Rodgers went down during the first series of a 27-20 loss Nov. 4 to Chicago. The Packers have managed to hang on, with a shot to win a third consecutive division title with a victory Sunday at Soldier Field.
“I’ll start with the announcement that we’re preparing for the Chicago Bears with Aaron Rodgers as our starting quarterback,” coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Thursday after practice.
Win and Green Bay returns to Lambeau Field the following weekend to host a wild-card team in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’re in it. You know we have a chance against our rivals, and what a better way than to go down there and get some redemption and host a home playoff game,” Rodgers said.
The Bears signed receiver Chris Williams from the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad.
Williams entered the NFL in 2009 as an undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins out of New Mexico State. He spent the past 12 weeks on the Saints’ practice squad. Williams has also played on the Browns’ practice squad and spent time in the CFL.
The Bears also announced they have waived defensive tackle Christian Tupou.
Knee injuries decline
ACL injuries are down, the NFL has told its Health and Safety Advisory Committee.
In a memo to the committee sent earlier this week and obtained by the Associated Press, the league said research showed there were 30 anterior cruciate ligament injuries in games through the preseason and first 13 weeks of the schedule. There were 39 such injuries in 2012, 35 in 2011, 37 in 2010, and 31 in 2009.
ACL problems are the most severe knee injuries.
There was an increase in medial collateral ligament injuries (MCL), from 74 in 2012 to 89 in games this season through 13 weeks. But there were 106 MCL injuries in 2011, 89 in 2010 and 103 in 2009.
Dickerson on IR
The Detroit Lions put tight end Dorin Dickerson on injured reserve, four days after he didn’t immediately tell the team’s medical staff he had a concussion during a game against the New York Giants.
The Lions signed tight end Matt Veldman from their practice squad on Thursday to replace Dickerson, claimed wide receiver Micheal Spurlock off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys and added wide receiver Carlin Isles to the practice squad.
Dickerson told reporters Sunday he was unconscious after a kickoff return during the 23-20 overtime loss to the Giants. Dickerson said he should’ve reported the concussion, but thought he could play through it. He ended up dropping a pass and getting called for holding at the beginning of the Lions’ only drive in overtime, leading to them punting.
Kitna to donate salary
Jon Kitna will earn $53,000 to serve as the Cowboys’ third-string quarterback for one week — and he plans to donate that money to the Seattle-area high school where he’s now a coach.
Kitna retired after the 2011 season, his 15th in the league, and was coaching football at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., this season when he heard about Tony Romo’s back injury. Kitna sent a text message Tuesday morning to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, and the two would talk by phone for 30 minutes, he said.
“I told Jason if he wants me or somebody to come in and call a play and be able to pull a play off if a bad situation happened, I would be willing to do that,” the 41-year-old Kitna said.
He’ll suit up Sunday as the backup to Kyle Orton if Romo can’t play against the Philadelphia Eagles, in a game that will decide a playoff berth. Dallas hasn’t ruled out the star quarterback for Sunday night’s game against Philadelphia, but all signs point to Romo’s back injury pushing Orton into the starting role after two years of limited play as the backup.
Around the league
Adrian Peterson’s status for the last game of the season is uncertain. “Stay tuned,” the Minnesota running back said. …The Jacksonville Jaguars will be without two starters on defense for Sunday’s finale at Indianapolis. Linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) will miss his second consecutive game and cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle) will be out. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley says Hayes needs arthroscopic surgery on his knee.