The word that Aaron Rodgers would miss Thursday night’s second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens with tightness in his back wasn’t much of a blow when Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur said after the game he didn’t expect the franchise quarterback would miss practice time.
But when the horn blew for Sunday afternoon’s practice, Rodgers was nowhere to be found.
The official word from the Packers, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood, was that Rodgers was missing practice as a “continued precaution” with his back tightness. LaFleur said after Sunday’s “sloppy” practice that Rodgers is day-to-day and has not yet decided whether he will play Thursday’s game at the Oakland Raiders.
Considering there are more than two weeks left before the regular-season opener, and that the two-time MVP quarterback played the 2018 season with a fracture in the top of his lower leg bone, the Packers taking precautions with Rodgers seems to be a safe move.
Whether Rodgers misses more than one practice, though, will better indicate if his status is in question for the Packers’ season opener at the Chicago Bears, who touted the best defense in the NFL during the 2018 season.
DeShone Kizer is the frontrunner to be Rodgers’ backup, despite a lackluster second outing against the Ravens. Tim Boyle and rookie Manny Wilkins are also vying for the Packers’ affection and will likely aim to make the most of a thinner QB pool — even if just for a day.
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Playing it Safe
Labeled a precaution, the move is a smart one in light of injuries that have already occurred throughout the half-departed preseason. The Los Angeles Chargers have lost All-Pro safety Derwin Jones for a minimum of three months after he suffered a surgery-requiring stress fracture in his right foot. The Chargers also lost star receiver Keenan Allen likely until September.
Sometimes injuries are unavoidable, but small ones in star players cause wise teams to take safety measures. The Cleveland Browns have already done it this offseason with Odell Beckham Jr., while the preseason’s four-game slate of games rarely features much of the starters on any teams.
Losing Rodgers would flatten expectations for the Packers coming into 2019 and contending with the likes of the defense-dominant Bears and the rising Minnesota Vikings, who Fox Sports senior national writer Peter Schrager picked to win the NFC North this season.
If you excluded the playoff-bound Packers resting Rodgers for the 2010 and 2011 regular-season finales, the team is just 5-10-1 without their star quarterback since taking over starting duties at the start of the 2008 season. And when you consider the backup talent currently vying for the spot behind Rodgers, the outlook is shaky on any games played without him.
Who Will Rise?
Kizer seemingly has an edge both in terms of how he has been used during training camp and his performances in the first two preseason games — though, his first game was objectively better. Still, the Packers have turned to second-year Boyle slightly more often with him taking 49 offensive snaps to Kizer’s 44.
While a side-by-side stat comparison has Kizer leading in preseason passing yardage (172 vs. 147) and is more nimble on his feet, Boyle surpassed him in terms of accuracy (17 of 24 vs. 13 of 23) and scoring (three TDs vs. one).
Let’s not forget about the undrafted rookie Wilkins, either, who completed his first NFL pass when he went 1 for 2 for 14 yards Thursday night against the Ravens. He may not yet be positioned to dethrone either of the more seasoned candidates, but strong training camp sessions could land him a noteworthy role on the practice squad as he further develops.