GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Packers coach Mike McCarthy said that it's time for Aaron Rodgers to play football again.
And so Rodgers, out the last eight games with a broken left collarbone, has been cleared to play in a winner-take-all meeting with the Chicago Bears on Sunday for the NFC North title.
"We're preparing for the Chicago Bears with Aaron Rodgers as our starting quarterback," coach Mike McCarthy said at his news conference Thursday afternoon.
"He's been getting ready for this moment, and the moment's here."
McCarthy said the decision was made Tuesday, but it was held secret until he announced to the team at 8:05 a.m. Thursday that Rodgers would start. McCarthy said it was business as usual for his team.
Rodgers was in no mood to discuss the process of how he got cleared, calling it "inappropriate." He also wouldn't acknowledge that he was wearing extra padding on his left shoulder, which was evident to some at practice.
His main message was, he's ready to play.
"Yeah, I'm excited to be back with the team," he said. "I mean this a fun day for me but I think the focus needs to be on this game and the opportunity we have to win the division, which is our first goal every year.
"We're in it, you know we have a chance against our rivals and what a better way than to go down there and get some redemption and host a home playoff game."
Rodgers has not played since injuring his shoulder against the Bears on Nov. 4, but he has been able to practice the last three weeks, and McCarthy said he's hoping that allows him to come back with less rust to shake off than if he had just come back this week.
Rodgers didn't want to hear anything about rust.
"I'm sure if I miss a pass, that it's because I'm rusty, or if I hit one it's going to be a big deal or something," he said. "But it's about preparation for me and going through the practice reps like I did today and tomorrow, and getting ready to play."
McCarthy said Rodgers accepted the risk factor that was involved but mostly just wants to play football. McCarthy said several times that it was time for Rodgers to play football again.
"Every football player that plays in this game some day will have risk," McCarthy said. "I think we all understand that. So we've done our due diligence, we've gone through all the evaluations and feel it is time, Aaron is ready to play."
In Rodgers' absence, the Packers have gone 2-5-1 with backup quarterbacks Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn, including the Nov. 4 loss to the Bears.
McCarthy made it clear that the game Sunday is not entirely on Rodgers' shoulders.
"I think it's important, that's something we talk as a football team, Aaron is obviously very important to our team. History defines that clearly. But we need to go down there and win this game as a team. ... Everybody understands that we need to run the football, we need to stop the run, and we need pass protect, we need to get after their quarterback, we need to play pass defense and we also need to get after it on the perimeter. So that's what we're trying to stay focused on."
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