Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday that Aaron Rodgers will be the starting quarterback for Sunday's regular-season finale.
"We're preparing for the Chicago Bears with Aaron Rodgers as our starting quarterback," said McCarthy. "Our goal coming into this week was to have this announcement Tuesday by our team meeting, but that did not happen. All the evaluation and the communication was not concluded yet at that point. We waited to tell the team today at 8:05, because we felt that obviously the first people that needed to know about that was our football team."
If everything goes according to plan, it will be the first time Rodgers plays since breaking his collarbone Nov. 4 against the very same Bears team, which was also the start of a five-game winless streak for the Packers.
Over the course of eight games without Rodgers, the Packers have gone 2-5-1 and find themselves still in contention for a spot in the playoffs in what has become a de facto NFC North championship game on Sunday.
The winner of this weekend's game between the Packers and the Bears will win the division and earn the right to host a home game during the wildcard round of the playoffs.
With so much at stake, McCarthy message to his players was to make sure it was still a team game and not just about their quarterback.
"I think it's important, it's something we talked about as a football team, Aaron's obviously important to our team, history defines that clearly," said McCarthy. "But we need to go down there and win this game as a team.
"There wasn't a bunch of flyers that were thrown up in the air. Everybody understands that we need to run the football. We need to stop the run, we need to pass protect, we need to get after their quarterback, we need to play pass defense and we obviously need to get after them on the perimeter. That's what we're trying to stay focused on, but this is the decision I'm sure everybody was waiting for."
After weeks of consideration, the decision was finally made to instill Rodgers as the starting quarterback over Matt Flynn, who guided the team to a 2-2 record since taking over as the starter.
"Every football player that plays in this game Sunday will have risk, and I think we all understand that," said McCarthy. "We've done our due diligence. We've gone through all the evaluations, and it's time Aaron Rodgers is ready to play."
McCarthy continued, "Aaron has accepted the level of risk for this is probably the third week. He's been put through… this has been a stressful period for him. I think he's just relieved to play, and frankly, I know in our conversation this morning, it's time to play football. This situation, particularly out in the media focused on our internal talks has been discussed thoroughly over and over and over again. He just wants to focus on playing football."
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