GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers’ potential return from a broken collarbone took a major step forward this week. But, as Rodgers has said all along, there has to be a reason to return.
The Packers quarterback, who is on injured reserve, went through a conditioning session on Wednesday that included taking snaps and mimicking the throwing motion with a towel. It was his first time doing anything football-related on the field since suffering the injury at Minnesota on Oct. 15.
“I think he’s making really good progress,” coach Mike McCarthy said before Thursday’s practice. “I know the training staff and the strength and conditioning staff are very pleased with where he is. He’s moving right along.”
For the Packers to stay in the playoff chase, they will need consistent production out of their running game, regardless of who is carrying the ball in their banged-up backfield.
In last weekend’s victory at Chicago, rookie starter Aaron Jones suffered a knee injury and backup Ty Montgomery re-injured the ribs that were broken during the first matchup against the Bears on Sept. 28. Rookie Jamaal Williams, who had rushed only twice in the previous four games, carried the load with 20 carries for 67 yards in the second half.
McCarthy said Jones is out for “multiple” weeks and Montgomery missed the first two days of practice this week. The Packers (5-4) probably will move forward with Williams, a fourth-round pick, and Devante Mays, a seventh-round pick, when they host the Baltimore Ravens (4-5) on Sunday.
The Packers will need those two to produce. The Ravens’ third-ranked pass defense and blitz-heavy scheme will provide the biggest test to date for Brett Hundley, who will be making his fourth NFL start. Baltimore’s 28th-ranked run defense has been vulnerable at times.
After carrying the ball 11 times in the first eight games, Williams ended up with a heavy workload against Chicago.
“I feel comfortable because every week I go in like I’m still the No. 1 back,” Williams said. “I work as hard as I’ve always done.”
Mays hasn’t played a snap from scrimmage in the team’s nine games.
“I’ve been waiting,” Mays said. “I’ve got to take advantage of this and show everybody who I am and that I’m ready.”
Rodgers can’t practice until Dec. 2, one day before a home game against Tampa Bay. If Rodgers is healed and the Packers are in the playoff hunt, he could return to the lineup for the Week 15 game at Carolina on Dec. 17. The Packers close the season with a pair of games against the top teams in the NFC North: home against Minnesota and at Detroit.
“We’ve still got to wait but it’s good to see,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “At the same time, we’ve still got to hold up our end of the bargain and steal a few wins throughout these next several weeks in hopes that we’ve got a shot with him coming back. We started with one last week. Hopefully, we can get another one this week.”
Notes: The injury report was unchanged from Wednesday, with Jones, Montgomery, S Morgan Burnett (groin) and RT Bryan Bulaga (knee) not practicing. . CB Kevin King, who missed the final few snaps against Chicago with a shoulder injury, was limited for the second consecutive day.