Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers warms up before a game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on September 9, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin
New York (AFP) - Injured Super Bowl champion quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh are hoping to be healthy enough to take the field for key NFL games Sunday.
Both star passers were hurt in last weekend’s season openers, Rodgers returning from a severely sprained left knee to spark the Packers’ 24-23 victory over visiting Chicago and Roethlisberger bruising his right elbow on the penultimate offensive play in a 21-21 draw at Cleveland.
Rodgers and “Big Ben” each sat out practices as they try to heal in time for Green Bay to host fellow NFC Noth division co-leader Minnesota and the Steelers to entertain Kansas City.
“I don’t plan on it,” Roethlisberger said when asked if he would miss any game time.
Questioned about not playing on Sunday, Rodgers replied, “I haven’t even thought about that.”
Roethlisberger, 36, struggled at Cleveland, completing was 23-of-41 for 335 yards and a touchdown but threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles when sacked.
“That was last week,” he said. “You’ve got to move on because you’ve got a game this week. We did our film study. Now we’re moving on to Kansas City. We’ve got to focus on that.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is focusing on how fast and how well Roethlisberger, a Super Bowl winner in 2006 and 2009, can recover.
“Ben’s elbow may limit him in the early portions of the week. We often limit him in the early portions of the week anyway,” Tomlin said. “Ben’s cumulative body of work over his extended career helps in that charge.”
Rodgers, 34, played with pain in the second half but threw three touchdown passes to beat the Bears despite limited mobility. While he might not be able to scramble, he expects to be able to evade rushers and elude pressure well enough to throw.
“The small circle I was moving in Sunday night, if I can get back to that, hopefully a little better than that, without pain, then hopefully I’ll be able to go,” Rodgers said.
“Just because I wasn’t escaping the pocket, I was still moving in the pocket, subtle movements. It doesn’t mean you have to get the ball out right away.”
Rodgers, who says he wouldn’t need to practice this week to be ready on Sunday, has had left knee issues for half his life with multiple operations the past 20 years, so he knows the challenge facing him.
“I want to play,” Rodgers said. “Just taking it one day at a time, see how it feels Friday and Saturday and then hopefully ready to go Sunday.”
- ‘This is no layup’ -
Packers coach Mike McCarthy has a wait-and-see attitude.
“I’m sure he’s feeling sore today. This is no layup,” McCarthy said. “It’s a day-to-day situation.”
Carolina will make a short trip down Interstate 85 to play at Atlanta, the Faclons’ domed stadium a handy benefit as Hurricane Florence strikes the area with high winds and heavy rains.
Sunday’s other games find Houston at Tennessee, Indianapolis at Washington, Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, Miami at the New York Jets, the Los Angeles Chargers at Buffalo, Cleveland at New Orleans, Detroit at San Francisco, Arizona at the Los Angeles Rams, New England at Jacksonville, Oakland at Denver and the New York Giants at Dallas. Seattle will visit Chicago on Monday.