It’s been six weeks and two days since Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers fractured a collarbone. With the team now two wins away from an unlikely (given the 0-4-1 run right after Rodgers exited) NFC North crown, Rodgers seems to be more intent than ever on playing when the Steelers come to town on Sunday.
At a minimum, Rodgers is finally speaking the language that gets to the root of the balance that team doctors are trying to strike.
“I think there has to be on some level a risk-reward conversation,” Rodgers said during his weekly radio spot on ESPN Milwaukee, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “You have to base that on the evidence you see on the scan, but also how I’m feeling and if I’m able to do normal football movements without pain. That obviously goes into the equation.”
Rodgers is right. The reward becomes qualifying for a playoff berth and chasing a championship, with the collarbone getting more and more healthy each and every week. The risk, apparently, arises from the possibility of breaking the collarbone again, possibly badly enough to require surgery.
Whatever the risk, that’s the discussion Rodgers and Dr. Pat McKenzie need to have. After decades of teams bullying (subtly or otherwise) doctors into letting players play, Dr. McKenzie seems to have gone the other way, protecting a grown man from consciously accepting the possibility that the collarbone could break again.
It’s hard not to wonder whether the situation would be different if the Packers had a traditional owner — someone who ultimately held the keys to the car and who would be tempted to push his underlings to push the doctor to let Rodgers play if he wants to play, and to explore finding a different doctor who possibly would provide a different opinion.
Dr. McKenzie’s willingness to protect Rodgers is admirable. Not enough team doctors have, over the years, put the interests of their player-patients over the importance of keeping happy the entity that has the power and funds to find a new doctor. But as the Packers compete for a playoff berth, it’s hard not to wonder how many other teams would allow a doctor to trump the wishes of a player who understands the risk and who is willing to accept it.
Regardless, Rodgers seems to be moving closer to taking a stand.
“Sometimes those guys have to save you from yourself,” Rodgers said. “Doc and I always have had a close relationship and an honest relationship. I think he trusts me on how I’m feeling. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to battle him.”
At some point, it’s a battle that the franchise quarterback will win. Every play of every NFL game entails risk of injury. If Rodgers understands what could happen if the collarbone breaks again and accepts that enhanced risk, he should be allowed to make the final decision.