RodgersWatch: On sliding and new helmets

In Minnesota, Brett Favre is sidelined by a concussion and unlikely to play Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Where have we heard that one before?) In Detroit, Shaun Hill was working with the first-team offense as the Lions prepared for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.

But the most significant NFC North quarterback news Wednesday was the return of Aaron Rodgers to the Green Bay Packers' practice. Rodgers was cleared earlier this week for a full return, and during a long session with Wisconsin reporters, said that suffering two concussions in a 10-week span has given him no added concern about taking the field.

"I think there's been a lot of research that's been done," Rodgers said, "and I trust the NFLPA and NFL working together to improve player safety and dealing with concussions. [I] feel very confident with the diagnosis I got and the clearance I got."

With that said, Rodgers practiced Wednesday with a different style of helmet than the NFL's standard-issue Riddell version. NFL players have the option of choosing their own helmet provided the manufacturer's logo isn't displayed, an option utilized by Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, among others.

Helmet design was one of the primary topics at an NFL concussion summit earlier this month, according to Neil Schwartz of the New York Times.

Rodgers said he didn't think there was "anything overly wrong" with his previous helmet but that he "just wanted to make a change."

Concussion research continues to evolve, and as with many medical issues, you can usually find "experts" providing completely contradictory advice. But here is an excerpt of a nine-year-old study that you can find on the National Institute of Health's website: "[A]thletes sustaining a concussion are at a 3-fold increased risk for future concussions, and that risk increases with each successive injury."

There are ways to minimize risk, the study suggests. In Rodgers' case, the Packers continue to encourage him to slide at the end of his scrambles. That likely would have prevented his second concussion of the season, when his head bounced off the turf at Ford Field at the end of an 18-yard run.

Rodgers vowed to "definitely make a better decision next time but added: "I've been a guy who's slid 95 percent of the time. I'm usually pretty smart outside the pocket. There's some circumstances where that can't happen or doesn't happen, but this game is a reactionary game. It's a collision sport. There's going to be collisions on the field. Obviously, you want to minimize those when you're a quarterback, but I'm going to continue to play the way I play and slide when I'm able to."

The Packers are counting on it. They're in a two-game fight for their playoff hopes, and they aren't likely to do it without their quarterback at full strength.

"I have zero doubts taking the field," Rodgers said. "I feel confident. I've been cleared. The doctors are confident. I'm going to continue to play the way I play and make sure I slide every time."