Night net null null Now that Aaron Rodgers is ready to return for the Packers’ stretch run in 2017, are we looking at shades of 2010 with a Rodgers-fuele
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Correct call on Aaron Rodgers' return won't make Packers execs any less nervous


Correct call on Aaron Rodgers' return won't make Packers execs any less nervous

Night net null null Now that Aaron Rodgers is ready to return for the Packers’ stretch run in 2017, are we looking at shades of 2010 with a Rodgers-fueled playoff/Super Bowl run for Green Bay?Or will we see a Tony Romo-like recurring collarbone problem that could derail the future Hall of Famer's career? IYER: Rodgers returns to better offenseAs Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, Rodgers and Green Bay's doctors/training staff deserve credit for his aggressive rehab and quick return from a broken right collarbone sustained in Week 6. The speculation at the time was that Rodgers' season was over; it would take extensive rehab lasting through the entire season because it was the collarbone on his throwing side. Instead, the QB is back within the minimum eight weeks allowed after being placed on designated to return injured reserve. Also credit Rodgers' teammates, including backup Brett Hundley, for going 3-4 in his absence. If the Packers were not sitting at 7-6 and in the playoff hunt, general manager Ted Thompson and McCarthy likely would have sat Rodgers the rest of the way.In my GM days, I would not have risked our franchise quarterback coming off a significant injury in the last three weeks of a lost season regardless of how badly he wanted to play. But things are different in Green Bay after its fourth-quarter comeback win in Cleveland on Sunday. Now, if I'm Thompson or McCarthy and I have a highly motivated Rodgers seemingly ready to go, I'm playing him even though there's always a gray area in regard to whether he's 100 percent healed.In this situation, you trust your doctors and move forward.Thompson and McCarthy surely are thinking a couple of things: One, the Packers are not paying Rodgers $22 million per year to sit on the bench if he's healthy enough to play and the team is in the hunt; and two, thank you Hundley for keeping Green Bay alive. But the GM and coach know their chances of winning all three remaining games and potentially grabbing a wild-card spot are much better with their two-time MVP and six-time Pro Bowler, who has been down this road a couple times before.In 2010, Rodgers missed two games with a concussion before returning to lead the team to wins in their final two games and earn the NFC's No. 6 seed. He then went on a postseason tear that culminated in the victory over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV.In 2013, Rodgers broke his left collarbone in Week 9 and was able to make it back for a final-week showdown with the Bears for the division title. He led the Pack to a dramatic win with a last-minute, 48-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-8. But playoff success eluded Rodgers and the Packers that season, as they fell to the 49ers in the wild-card round.The Packers' football brain trust — along with all of Packerland — is well aware that if Green Bay makes the playoffs this season, it is fully capable of another Super Bowl run.Night net playoff picture:Current seeding | Clinching scenariosMcCarthy is not bothering to play it coy on whether it will be Rodgers or Hundley starting this week, as he said Rodgers is "preparing to start." He knows that once Rodgers announced he was cleared to play, the Panthers were preparing to face him.Thompson and McCarthy also know Hundley wasn't great in his seven starts — 170 passing yards per game, eight touchdown passes, eight interceptions, 78.0 rating, barely able to get by 4-9 Tampa Bay and 0-13 Cleveland the last two weeks. Rodgers conversely was off to an outstanding start before his injury this season — a 4-1 record with 13 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.Rodgers might be a little rusty at first; he's been practicing for a couple weeks, but game speed is certainly at a different level,

and the QB is not supposed to get hit in practice. Still, he's a much better option than Hundley against the 9-4 Panthers followed by Rodgers' revenge game at home against the 10-3 Vikings, then the regular-season finale in Detroit against the 7-6 Lions, who as of now are still in contention.It will be interesting to see whether McCarthy tries to protect Rodgers with quick release passes and/or tells him not to scramble unless he can safely get out of bounds … all while hoping to lean on a recently improved running game."You have to play your game," McCarthy said about his star's return, So the coach’s public posture is that he'll turn Rodgers loose.But will that really be the case, and, if so, is it the wise approach?The amount of risks Rodgers takes will depend in part on the scores of the games. In critical situations, instincts take over for a player like Rodgers, so he's apt to take off and run if necessary. If I’m a Packers exec, that is when I would be extremely nervous up in the management box. As soon as Rodgers picked up a first down, I’d be yelling, "get down!”The risky part of this equation is if Rodgers takes another hard hit and re-injures his collarbone. Romo broke his collarbone twice in the 2015 season, and along with a multitude of other injuries once he hit his 30s, his career was shortened as a result.WEEK 15 Night net PICKS:Against the spread | Straight upRodgers, 34, said prior to this season that he wants to be like Tom Brady and still be playing for the Packers at 40. To accomplish that feat, he'll have to avoid hits like the one he took from the Vikings’ Anthony Barr on Oct. 15.Meanwhile, for the Night net, a marquee quarterback returning and adding sizzle to the last few weeks of the season (and possibly the playoffs) is great news. Especially after a tough year for the league in which so many star players have been injured.Jeff Diamond is a former president of the Titans and former vice president/general manager of the Vikings. He was selected Night net Executive of the Year in 1998. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work. He is the former chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNight net.

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