GREEN BAY, Wis. - Ultimately, Aaron Rodgers will not return to the football field until Dr. Pat McKenzie says he can.
That's what Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday, as the Packers began their preparations for the Dallas Cowboys with backup Matt Flynn set to make his third consecutive start.
It's unclear if McKenzie, the longtime Packers team physician, could be lobbied in any way by an anxious Rodgers, who hasn't played since fracturing his left collarbone against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 4. But McCarthy didn't sound like the decision would be open to debate.
"The way we've always done it, that's with medical clearance," McCarthy said Monday, one day after the Packers got their first victory without Rodgers, a 22-21 triumph over downtrodden Atlanta that snapped an 0-4-1 winless skid. "Obviously, when a player is in a rehab position, there's conversation and obviously all the testing is done. That meeting goes on and ultimately Pat has to clear him. Dr. McKenzie has to clear the player."
Two weeks ago, Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com that he was hoping he could influence both McCarthy and McKenzie if he feels good and feels the Packers need him. After the victory over the Falcons, the Packers (6-6-1) are a half-game behind the Detroit Lions (7-6) and the Bears (7-6) following Chicago's blowout victory over the Cowboys (7-6) on Monday Night Football.
"I respect their opinion, so I obviously listen to them and take all that into account, but I think we've come to some agreements during my years as a player and a starter where we might not all agree that it's right to play, but we agree that the risk is low enough that if I feel good enough to play, I can play," Rodgers said on Nov. 26. "I think that's kind of the way that we operate. I trust Mike to kind of save me from myself at times, and Doc to be the voice of reason.
"But I know my body better than anybody and it's just a matter of combining the strength, the flexibility, the lack of pain and the low-risk. And when all those align, then I'll be back on the field. .. My decision is based on how I feel and when I'm ready to play, I'll play."
Well, we shall see about that. Rodgers is slated to do his radio show again Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. CST.
McCarthy said the plan with Rodgers is for him to work out for the training staff on Tuesday, then be evaluated Wednesday by McKenzie.
"They're going to do some things tomorrow that they haven't done last week," McCarthy said. "He's still not medically cleared."
Last Tuesday, Rodgers had a CT scan on his collarbone and admitted afterward that he didn't get the news he was hoping for. Although he took part in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, he did so on a limited basis, doing essentially only individual work. Flynn took all the starter's snaps in practice, which it appears he'll do again this week. Flynn certainly will have the game plan crafted for him when the coaches meet on Tuesday.
"We're planning to play the game with Matt. That's the way you have to go about it," McCarthy said. "It's the same way we went last week. Visiting with Aaron (Sunday) about where he is, he has hurdles to go over and medically he's not cleared. So we're planning for Matt Flynn."
After completing 21 of 36 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown to rally the Packers from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 24, Flynn – and the rest of the offense – were horrible on Thanksgiving, when Flynn was just 10 of 20 for 139 yards with a fumble, seven sacks (one for a safety) and an interception in a 40-10 blowout loss at Detroit. On Sunday against the Falcons, though, Flynn was on point, completing 24 of 32 passes for 258 yards with one touchdown, one interception and five sacks for a 95.6 passer rating.
"I think the biggest thing is, the entire offense performed better," offensive coordinator Tom Clements replied when asked what was the difference for Flynn, who got his first full week of practice last week after getting four first-team snaps before the Vikings game and doing essentially jog-through work before the Thanksgiving game.
"I've said a number of times throughout the years that when things go wrong, the quarterback gets an inordinate amount of the blame. When they go well, he gets a lot of the credit. When we played Detroit, we didn't do much of anything. Everyone contributed to that. (Against the Falcons), we performed better and everybody contributed to that.
"If that's how it goes, then the more work a guy gets, hopefully he gets better and gets more familiar with the offense and the offense gets more familiar with him. So we'll see how that plays out."
Clements said the coaches could alter the game plan to accommodate Rodgers if he is cleared later in the week.
"Probably," Clements said with a trace of a smile.
But for that to happen, Rodgers will have to get the good doctor's OK.
"He's progressing," McCarthy said. "I think the biggest thing is strength – strength and comfort. He felt better Friday than he did on Wednesday. Hopefully we'll make the same progress this week."
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on "Green & Gold Today" on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.