Every Christmas needs a holiday heist story and this one is a bit of a doozy. Imagine, if you can, the Green Bay Packers being forced to release quarterback Aaron Rodgers because of a violation of the injured reserve rules.
Fresh from the it-can’t-hurt-to-bring-it-up department, multiple NFL teams have complained to the league because Rodgers came off the injured reserve (designated to return) list and then was shut down for the season, going on permanent IR, after the Dec. 17 game, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports. Teams are taking issue with this because Rodgers reportedly suffered no new injury and NFL rules require that a player must have suffered a new injury that would sideline him at least six weeks to be placed on injured reserve. If that is not the case, the team is obligated to release the player when he is healthy.
Here’s the backstory: Rodgers missed seven games after having surgery to repair a broken right collarbone suffered Oct. 15. He was officially activated Dec. 16, although it was widely known that the break had not fully healed in such a short time. He played the following weekend against Carolina, although his timing and performance were off in a loss in which he threw three interceptions (the first time that has happened to him in a game since 2009) in addition to three touchdowns. The following day, the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs, and on Dec. 18 the team shut him down for the final two games.
Although Rodgers took a beating (12 hits) in the loss to the Panthers, Coach Mike McCarthy said only that the quarterback was “sore” multiple times and in “rest and recovery mode.” No new injury was announced and McCarthy added, “he has a distinct rehab plan as he moves forward.” On Saturday night, NBC’s Michele Tafoya reported that Rodgers, who needed two metal plates and 13 screws to repair his displaced fracture, had told her that the plan is for him to have another scan “after the season” and to resume workouts in a month.
The NFL typically doesn’t discuss how it tries to keep 32 teams happy and is referring questions to the Packers, who aren’t talking.
If all that seems mysterious, it’s nothing new, as the status of Rodgers’s healing collarbone has been cloaked in drama and mystery. His original departure from the short-term IR involved multiple consultations about the extent of healing with doctors across the country (his surgery was performed in California) and team executives and, of course, Rodgers himself was lobbying hard to return. Finally, he was medically cleared to play at something less than 100 percent. As Schefter points out, though, not having medical clearance and being placed on injured reserve are two different things.
If the Packers had not been eliminated, would Rodgers have remained active? It’s a good question, and because NFL teams are always taking their gripes to the league office, it’s worth throwing the challenge flag on the move, even if there’s not much chance that the league would force one of its most popular teams to release one of its best and most popular players.
Besides, every team that is out of playoff contention has an IR list of players who could play if a berth were on the line. As Andrew Brandt, the Packers’ former vice president of player finance and general counsel, points out: “Good luck with that. Players with hangnails are put on IR this time of year.”
But, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, try this on: Rodgers, if released, would go on waivers. There, the Cleveland Browns would have the first claim and their new general manager, John Dorsey, happened to be the Packers’ director of football operations when they drafted … Aaron Rodgers.