Aaron Rodgers underwent surgery Thursday. Bart Star flew into Green Bay today. Brett Huntley starts his first game Sunday.
It’s been an eventful week for Packers quarterbacks—past and present—since Rodgers fractured his collarbone after absorbing a brutal hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday. The team announced at 3:45 p.m. today that Rodgers was placed on injured reserve.
It was a hit that rocked a franchise and fan base as the worst fears were confirmed Monday: Rodgers is out for an extended period and may miss the rest of the 2017 season, depending on his recovery.
Starr, a beloved franchise legend, has been working hard rehabbing in the past several months as he’s overcome recent health ailments since suffering a heart attack and a series of strokes in 2014.
The leader of the Packers’ championship teams of the 1960s under Vince Lombardi will attend the Saints game with his former teammates from the 1967 championship squad, which will be honored in conjunction with the Packers Hall of Fame celebration of the 50th anniversary of the team that won an unprecedented third consecutive NFL championship.
The 83-year-old Starr last attended a game at Lambeau on Thanksgiving night in 2015, when he joined Brett Favre on the retirement of his No. 4 before a sell-out crowd in a loss to the rival Chicago Bears.
“I feel great,” Starr said Thursday evening via phone after a rehab session in Birmingham, Ala. “I’m looking forward to coming back to Green Bay.”
Starr and his wife, Cherry, Bart, Jr., and assistant Leigh Ann Nelson, traveled to Green Bay today. Starr will reunite with his teammates and in be a team suite for Sunday’s 12 noon game.
Hundley has practiced with the first-team offense all week in preparation for his first start against New Orleans, a team on the rise with a much improved defensive unit from past seasons.
The 3-2 Saints have won three straight games after an 0-2 start, including a 52-38 thumping of Detroit in New Orleans Sunday. Green Bay and Minnesota are tied atop the NFC North with 4-2 records, with the 3-3 Lions and 2-4 Bears chasing.
“Our goals haven’t changed, and they won’t,” Hundley told reporters in front of his locker after Wednesday’s practice. “Everything is in front of us, and we can still get to where we want to go to. Obviously, everybody loves 12, but our goals are the same.”
Head coach Mike McCarthy expressed confidence in his new starting quarterback after he was thrown into the fire in a hostile environment at Minnesota, where three offensive starting linemen went down to injury.
“The road that he rode in Minneapolis – the adversity he was under, the number of times he was getting hit, the number of breakdowns that occurred in the game, the way he played to the final whistle – that’s something very, very encouraging,” McCarthy said. “It’s something I’m building off of. . . he just kept playing. Playing with great energy. He didn’t blink. He got better in that game. That’s my belief.”
Against the Saints and Drew Brees, the Packers offense will benefit from a more productive running game and a strong performance from the defense, which limited Minnesota to just three field goals after halftime.
Mike Ditka, former Chicago Bears head coach and ESPN analyst, weighed in on the loss of Rodgers, the hit, and the division race earlier this week.
“The Packers are in deep (expletive),” Ditka said. “The guy (Barr) drove him into ground. It’s football. Defenders are taught to hit people. No one can say what his intent was except him. But if a quarterback is out of the pocket, they’re going to take a shot at him if they get it. That’s the reality of football.
“It’s the NFL and defensive coordinators promote getting after the quarterback within the rules. If you don’t respect Aaron Rodgers, you don’t respect the game. He’s not only a great player, but a class act. I wish him the best and hope he can come back this season. It’s a shame, but Green Bay has to pick up the pieces now and move on with the young kid (Hundley). Their division is not lost—9-7 could win that thing. No one is going to run away with it.”
Week 7 NFL Picks
Hundley was tossed into the fire in Minnesota and committed three turnovers, but he benefits from a full week of reps and prep with #1s for New Orleans. At home, injury-riddled Packers find a way to prevail over Saints and enter much-needed bye week with 5-2 record.
Packers 24, Saints 20