Fantasy injury update: Aaron Rodgers

Thursday update: Rodgers continues to make progress in terms of his activity but whether he’s any closer to playing Sunday is questionable. Rodgers returned to limited practice on Wednesday and “he looked good for what they asked him to do,” coach Mike Mccarthy said of his quarterback. On Thursday, Rodgers worked in pads, another step in a progressive return to activity.

But most important is how comfortable the medical staff is with Rodgers stepping on the field to potentially absorb another blow to his left collarbone. As of Tuesday, he was not medically cleared to return based on the latest imaging results, something McCarthy referenced when he said Rodgers had passed “two out of the three” parts to the medical clearance tests, the other two being range of motion and strength. While the team has said there have been no conversations about shutting Rodgers down for the season, a return this weekend would appear unlikely. Matt Flynn has been working with the first team all week, and barring surprise news regarding Rodgers’ status, will be in line to start Sunday against the Falcons.

As has been widely reported, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers underwent testing Tuesday to evaluate the healing progress of his left collarbone. The decision about whether he will return this week -- or even this season -- goes beyond the imaging results. Of course, if there is poor healing, the decision to hold him out is easy. If there is good evidence of healing, the decision becomes more difficult.

Even after there is evidence of healing on imaging, the bone continues to remodel itself for an extended period following a fracture, often months. It then becomes a bit of guesswork to estimate the risk of re-injury, which is what everyone in the Green Bay organization no doubt fears. Rodgers might be fine to perform his normal quarterbacking functions, but he becomes at risk when absorbing contact, particularly if he is taken to the ground in a fashion similar to how he sustained the injury. Another blow to a still-healing bone represents a risk of re-injury, potentially even a worse injury, one that could require surgery. If it weren’t for the Packers positioning in terms of a possible playoff spot, the decision might be easier. The Packers haven’t won since Rodgers was hurt. But if he returns to assist in leading them to victory but suffers a season-ending (re-)injury in the process, will it have been worth it? And could they really expect to contend without him?

This week’s decision may be a difficult one, but it will without a doubt be made with Rodgers’ long-term health as the primary consideration. If Rodgers does sit out Sunday’s game and the Packers fall out of playoff contention, then it becomes increasingly likely we might not see him return in 2013, despite McCarthy’s statement on Tuesday that there have been no internal conversations about shutting him down for the season. There is a precedent for this: Cowboys QB Tony Romo suffered a similar injury to his non-throwing shoulder in 2010, and, like Rodgers' ailment, the injury was managed non-surgically. Shortly after it became apparent in December that the Cowboys were not making the postseason, Romo was placed on IR. He returned without any lingering issues in 2011.