Needing to win out, Rodgers mulls more 'calculated risks'
GREEN BAY — While Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre may have rekindled their friendship in recent years — with Rodgers now referring to his successor by the not-particularly-imaginative nickname of "Favrey" whenever he comes up in conversation — the current Packers quarterback isn't about to morph into the Ol' Gunslinger with his team needing to win its last five games to have a shot at the playoffs.
But, Rodgers acknowledged Wednesday, Nov. 28, he might need to take what he called some "calculated risks" — despite having thrown just one interception in the first 11 games — to help breathe some life into the mundane offense.
Asked during his weekly get-together with reporters in front of his locker in advance of the Sunday, Nov. 25, game against the scuffling Arizona Cardinals if he might need to take more chances with the Packers at 4-6-1, Rodgers replied facetiously, "Yeah, why not? If we lose you guys are just going to write us off, so might as well let it all hang out these last five."
Riiiiight. Says the guy who has thrown 286 consecutive passes without an interception — the second-longest regular-season streak in team history (behind Bart Starr's record of 294) and Rodgers' longest since he went 318 straight attempts without an INT (including playoffs) during his magical run-the-table late-season dominance in 2016.
"No, I think you have to play smart and take care of the football," Rodgers continued. "We've done a good job of that. We haven't turned the ball over much (on offense) these last six or seven games. But we just haven't had the big play and point total that usually, for us, goes along with taking care of the football."
Rodgers is right; of the Packers' 12 turnovers this season, he has been responsible for four (one interception, three lost fumbles) while wide receiver Randall Cobb has lost one fumble and running back Aaron Jones lost another. (Backup quarterback DeShone Kizer turned it over twice while filling in for Rodgers in the immediate aftermath of his knee injury in the regular-season opener.)
Rodgers was a rookie in 2005 when Favre threw an NFL-high 29 interceptions trying to carry a struggling team that finished 4-12 (and got coach Mike Sherman fired after the season). But he did admit that he may have to throw a few more risky balls — likely to No. 1 receiver Davante Adams or Jones, the offense's other truly dynamic player — to get the offense out of its doldrums.
"We've got to take some chances — calculated risks," Rodgers said. "But we've got to keep doing the things that have been positive for us and that's finding ways to get the ball to Davante in different spots, getting '33' (Jones) in space, keep working Jimmy (Graham) in, hopefully getting Randall back (from his hamstring injury) this week, which would be a big boost for us.
"We've just got to play our best ball these next five games."
Packers all-pro left tackle David Bakhtiari was one of 13 players listed on the team's injury report Wednesday, and one of eight players who did not participate at all in the light practice. Nonetheless, both he and coach Mike McCarthy expressed some measure of optimism that he'll be able to play against Arizona despite injuries to both knees. Left guard Lane Taylor (quadriceps), who also left Sunday night's loss at Minnesota, practiced on a limited basis.
Both Cobb, who has missed six of the past eight games with his hamstring injury, and cornerback Kevin King, who has missed the last three games with his hamstring injury, were able to practice on a limited basis. But that doesn't guarantee they'll be cleared by game time.
McCarthy acknowledged that the Packers might not have the requisite 46 healthy players to fill out Sunday's game-day roster.
"You look at early in the season, we had that run where we were in pretty good shape (injury-wise)," McCarthy said. "(Now) you're sitting there and talking about who's going to be 43, 44, 45 and 46, and (you need to) make sure the positions are balanced out and make sure the defense and offense are going to be able to play the packages you like to play."
Meanwhile, returner Trevor Davis, who has been plagued by hamstring problems since the offseason, wasn't sure Wednesday if his season might be over. He spent two months on injured reserve after pulling his hamstring while warming up for the Sept. 9 season opener and the Packers could decide to put him back on IR to clear a roster spot.
The Packers could decide to activate former UW-Whitewater wideout Jake Kumerow, who continued to practice after being designated for return from IR last week.
The team added safety Eddie Pleasant to the 53-man roster while releasing linebacker Korey Toomer. Pleasant (5-10, 210) originally signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted rookie free agent out of University of Oregon in 2012. In six seasons with the Texans he played in 78 regular-season games with one start, recording 86 tackles (67 solo), four QB hits, two tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, three interceptions, 17 passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on defense.