Ever since Aaron Rodgers came to the Packers in 2005 the biggest knock on him was his toughness.
Of course it didn’t help that he was following the toughest player to put on NFL pads. Brett Favre started a record 321 straight games — 297 in the regular season and 24 in the playoffs. Favre was, and still is, the metaphor for toughness in all of sports.
So it’s understood that Rodgers could not catch a break in the toughness department.
And then Sunday happened.
Rodgers came into the season finale with a calf injury that he suffered at Tampa the previous week. Even though he obviously wasn’t 100 percent, everyone knew he was going to play. The Packers needed this game to guarantee a postseason matchup at home.
And he looked fine, until the 2:24 mark of the second quarter. He hit the Lambeau Field turf like a wheel of cheddar. But before he hit the ground, he was able to zip a 4-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb to put the Packers up by 14.
After that, Rodgers was carted off the field. The most important position in all of sports is quarterback and Rodgers is the best quarterback in football. So, it makes sense if the Lambeau faithful were starting to wonder if a deep playoff run was still in the cards for a Packers team that scored 30 or more points eight times this year.
Then, Matt Flynn came in. The talent disparity that was on display when Rodgers missed seven games with a broken clavicle last year, showed itself again. Flynn attempted two passes. One was caught by Eddie Lacy for six yards and the other was a sack for a loss of seven.
Rodgers strolled back onto the field with a victorious swagger. His playground became even more electric when the “MVP” chants started to echo throughout the Lambeau Field hallways.
He came back in the game with 7:34 left in the third and the score knotted at 14. The Lions just scored and appeared to have grabbed momentum. Rodgers didn’t attempt a pass until his fourth play back, but it turned out great. He had no mobility with his bad left calf, which meant he threw a lot of balls off his back foot, but he found Cobb over the middle that he turned into 29 yards.
After skipping to the line of scrimmage to avoid putting weight on his bad leg, he found Cobb for a 13-yard touchdown three plays later.
But it was the quarterback sneak that cemented his status as a tough quarterback. After engineering an eight-play, 41-yard drive on a noticeably bad wheel, Rodgers called his own number and awkwardly got into the south end zone. Ironically, that’s the same end zone that Bart Starr snuck himself into for the “Ice Bowl” win 47 years earlier. The gutsy call turned Rodgers into a hero and gave the Packers at least one more home game.
“He came out and showed that he’s more than just a good mind and a good brain; he’s a tough son of a gun,” fullback John Kuhn said. “To be able to do that, I know he strengthens everybody. Everybody, when you see what he did, you can’t help but lay everything else out on the line yourself because you the guy who’s leading this team is doing just that.”
Rodgers’ toughness could have been questioned before. But after hopping around Lambeau on one healthy leg, he instantly became another Packers definition of toughness.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn