GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Late Thursday afternoon, after Aaron Rodgers took snaps with the No. 1 offense in his second straight afternoon of pain-free practice, an executive in personnel for an NFC team paused to consider the Green Bay Packers with their starting quarterback back under center.
"They'll probably win the division if he plays," the scout said. "Dallas is a win, Pittsburgh is a win and Chicago, it's a coin flip, but the Bears' defense stinks."
Hope in the National Football League's smallest city flickered Friday after the Packers ruled Rodgers out for their game Sunday in Dallas.
Patrick McKenzie, the Packers' team physician for 20 years, made the decision to sit Rodgers for the sixth straight game without ordering a CT scan Friday.
It has been nearly six weeks since Rodgers suffered a broken left collarbone. In what coach Mike McCarthy characterized as a "difficult morning" of talks with McKenzie and Rodgers, the decision was made to withhold Rodgers presumably because the risk of reinjury was too high.
"Speaking with Dr. McKenzie, this is the right decision," said McCarthy. "Listening to all of the conversation, all of the facts and evaluation, it's in our best interests as a football team, as an organization, for Aaron Rodgers not to play in this game.
"I'm definitely OK with it . . . Hey, it's not the easiest thing to sit there and tell your franchise quarterback he can't play in the game when he wants to play in the game. This is clearly a decision that's made in the best interest of Aaron Rodgers."
Thus, Matt Flynn took all the snaps Friday with the No. 1 offense, backed by Scott Tolzien.
After throwing in drill work, Rodgers removed his helmet and stood well off to the side next to quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo during 11-on-11 work and did almost nothing thereafter.
Judging from the sober-as-a-judge look on his face, it was obvious that Rodgers wasn't pleased with the call made by the organization.
Rodgers didn't appear in the locker room after practice.
"He's very disappointed," reported McCarthy. "He's frustrated. The hurdle that I know Aaron wanted to get over, he achieved it this week. He feels really good. He felt like he was ready to play."
Although Rodgers said the discomfort that he experienced a week ago had dissipated this week, the Packers opted to give the bone at least another week to heal.
On Thursday, McAdoo indicated there was no discernible difference from the way Rodgers performed in practice compared to the first seven-plus games.
"He's pretty remarkable," said McAdoo.
When told that one personnel man earlier in the week guessed that Rodgers would show signs of the long layoff if he were to play in Dallas, offensive coordinator Tom Clements replied, "You better be careful who you're getting information from."
Clements added: "It's not like he's been out forever. When he's in there, he's doing well."
The offense, according to McCarthy, bounced back from an off day Thursday with what the coach said was Flynn's best practice in two weeks.
"He has to get completions and move the chains," McAdoo said. "Dallas is a little bit like Seattle with their one-high zone and some Tampa 2. They may call some more pressure but they're not going to change a whole bunch."
Now the Packers (6-6-1), one-half game behind Detroit and Chicago in the NFC North Division, might have to overcome some psychological hurdles as well as the Cowboys (7-6), who are favored by seven points.
"If anything, we kind of got our hopes up a little," cornerback Jarrett Bush said. "It was, 'Is he going to play?'
"But other than that, we know at the end of the day we've got to play football. If he played, great. If he didn't, we've got to ride with Flynn. We've got to win."
Mike Trgovac, who coaches the defensive line, said he didn't sense any of his players deflated by seeing Rodgers just having to stand there Friday.
"But they're human beings," said Trgovac. "Of course, they'd like to see Aaron in there."
Tight end Ryan Taylor indicated that disappointment in not having Rodgers on the field would be fleeting.
"One guy, no matter how good he is or how much he means to the organization, isn't going to stop our preparation," Taylor said. "We're not about one player. We're about 46 guys."
Tackle Don Barclay and center Evan Dietrich-Smith don't expect a letdown, either.
Tackle David Bakhtiari said it was important for the offense to have a full week's work with the starting quarterback because of differences in cadence.
"Whenever (Rodgers) comes back, whether it be next week or when, we'll have a full week with him," said Bakhtiari. "So we'll be back to hearing Aaron's cadence, Aaron's lingo, how Aaron operates. That's really big."
Although Flynn lost some starter's reps Thursday to Rodgers, Bakhtiari said it wasn't enough to affect Flynn's preparation.
"My mindset all week was that I'm going to start," said Flynn. "So it doesn't really change anything."
Meanwhile, the Cowboys received bad news when middle linebacker Sean Lee (neck), probably their most valuable player on defense, and Dwayne Harris (hamstring), their Pro Bowl-caliber return specialist, were ruled out.
Former Lion Justin Durant will replace Lee, who insisted Thursday that he was playing. Durant is returning from a three-game absence because of a hamstring injury. Earlier, he started five games on the strong side.
Bruce Carter (hamstring) is out and will be replaced at weak-side linebacker by veteran Ernie Sims, who also has started five games.
Harris will be replaced by Cole Beasley on punts and by Terrance Williams on kickoffs. If the Cowboys are concerned with Williams' fumbling problem, Beasley could do both.
Other than Rodgers and defensive end C.J. Wilson (ankle), all the other Packers will be available.
Returning to practice Friday were running back Eddie Lacy (ankle) and linebackers Brad Jones (ankle), Jamari Lattimore (knee) and Nick Perry (foot). All four are probable.
"(Lacy) took the allotted reps that we had set for him and looked good," said McCarthy. "We felt we got healthy as the week went on."
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