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Packers announce Aaron Rodgers will start against Bears

Updated: January 28, 2014 6:36AM



While the football world awaited word of Aaron Rodgers’ return Thursday afternoon, the Bears stepped off the practice field already assuming he would play Sunday in the playoff play-in at Soldier Field.

They had schemed for it all week and were proven prescient.

The Packers made the decision during an 8 a.m. team meeting that Rodgers would return from a broken left collarbone suffered Nov. 4 at the hands of Shea McClellin.

Coach Mike McCarthy confirmed the news publicly about a half-hour after the Bears’ practice concluded at Halas Hall.

“It didn’t surprise us,” coach Marc Trestman said. “If he can play, he would.

“And we prepared for that — and that’s no disrespect to the job [backup] Matt Flynn has done. They put up [68] points on the board the last two weeks alone.

“But if Aaron could play, we expected him to play, and we’re prepared for that.”

The Bears’ weeklong preparation won’t necessarily portend success, given that their defense allowed 54 points to the Eagles five days ago.

“He gives them a better opportunity for them to win, or to compete,” cornerback Tim Jennings understated.

In Rodgers’ seven complete games, the Packers have averaged 30.3 points. The Broncos are the only team to average more than 30 points for the entire season.

McCarthy said what the Bears must fear: that Rodgers is the best player in the NFL.

“In my humble opinion, there are some very good quarterbacks in this league,” he said. “Peyton Manning’s having a year that’s, gosh, an incredible year. Tom Brady’s having another great year. And a lot of young guys are playing really well.

“But I’ve always liked my guy. I think he’s the best player in the league. It definitely gives us a chance to win when he steps on the field.”

Rodgers “practiced two weeks prior to this week,” McCarthy said, so the Packers weren’t concerned it might take a while to get into the rhythm of Sunday’s game.

“He looked good [Thursday] at practice,” McCarthy said. “He’s got the ball. That’s the way we’re going.”

If Rodgers is rusty, it might be hard to tell. Only five teams have allowed more than the Bears defense’s 7.7 yards per pass attempt.

“I don’t anticipate him being rusty at all,” Jennings said, “because he’s still been out there with the team taking reps.”

Rodgers’ counterpart expects him to “play pretty sharply” at Soldier Field.

“He’s been doing this for a long time with Mike, so he’s going to be pretty familiar with what’s going on out there,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. “I wouldn’t expect much of a drop-off from him, by any means.”

Rodgers’ return will “give us a big boost,” Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson said, but players still need to perform.

“He’s not going to come in and win the game for us,” Nelson said.

If anyone can win the game for his team, though, it’s Rodgers, rusty or not.

“With Aaron back, they have a feeling they’ll be at their best,” Trestman said. “And we’re ready for that, excited about it.”

It’s hard to imagine the Bears’ defense is thrilled.

But with a postseason berth on the line, the players have little choice in the matter.

“This is what you fight for, an opportunity to be in the playoffs,” McCarthy said. “That’s what’s in front of us.

“Everyone’s well aware of the great history of the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. It’s always an honor and privilege to be a part of that. We’ll get an opportunity to place a page in our history.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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