The Green Bay Packers did an incredible job of handling Aaron Rodgers’s broken collarbone, and they did what very few NFL teams do when a star player is injured; they left the entire decision in the hands of an impartial team doctor who is excellent at his job. This doctor ignored Rodgers’s obvious desire to play, because he knew full well that just about every player wants to play through the pain, especially since they don’t know the stakes. What are the stakes? Robert Griffin III sure can tell you, and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski knows how dangerous rash judgments by an overzealous desire by player and team to get back on the field.
The Packers avoided those rash judgments by taking an agenda-free approach to Rodgers’s injury, and this approach was especially important given the nature of Rodgers’s injury. While collarbone can heal perfectly on their own, a player shouldn’t be rushed back from a collarbone injury due to the risk of a very serious aggravation. Pat McKenzie, the Packers team doctor, noticed that Rodgers’s collarbone was a tad slow to heal and avoided playing him until the Week 17 elimination game against the Chicago Bears. He knew the risk of aggravation was too high, and the Packers almost certainly couldn’t afford an aggravation to the league’s best player.
Aaron Rodgers may have been frustrated at points, but it all worked out well for both him and the Packers, as the Pack are now in the playoffs after knocking off the Bears 33-28 yesterday. Rodgers knows that McKenzie and the Packers made the right decision, and he sounds extremely grateful for McKenzie, his judgment, and his guts to wisely tell Rodgers “no”.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King,Rodgers said, “Pat and I are really close. and now I respect him even more, after we went through this. Sometimes, doctors need to step up and save players from themselves, and I felt that’s what Pat did in this case. I felt every week he was doing what was in my best interests, even thought I didn’t agree with him all the time—not at all. All the time, we were looking at the same stuff on the scans [the MRI results and X-rays], and he was saying what had to be said. It wasn’t easy, but I can tell you, it paid off today.”
It was clear that Rodgers showed no ill-effects from the injury, and that credit goes to McKenzie for doing an excellent job. I love this quote from Rodgers (he always gives thoughtful responses), and I hope other teams look at what the Packers have done with Rodgers’s injury and follow suit; the future health of a player serves the best interests of all parties involved.