Take toughness issue out of Rodgers' return

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Now we know why Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy used some form of the phrase “organizational decision” nine times on Friday when describing why quarterback Aaron Rodgers was not cleared to return from his broken collarbone.

According to ESPN senior analyst Chris Mortensen, McCarthy’s response came at Rodgers’ insistence, at least in part because of his concern over for the perception that it was a matter of toughness.

Here’s the text of what Mortensen reported on "Sunday NFL Countdown:"

“A CT scan of Aaron Rodgers' fractured left collarbone still showed 'extraordinary risk' if he returned to the football field today, according to sources. So why the emphasis on 'organizational decision' by Packers coach Mike McCarthy on Friday, to the point where McCarthy mentioned it eight or nine times by media count? That's because Rodgers insisted vehemently on a message of 'organizational decision,' sources said, with an emphasis that he is a tough guy. One source says the quarterback's sensitivity that his injury absence would be compared to Brett Favre's reputation for toughness was a driving force behind the McCarthy's message, which created palpable tension between the coach and quarterback. And sources say McCarthy clearly understood Dr. Patrick McKenzie's unwillingness to give Rodgers' medical clearance and there was no real organizational decision about it. It was medical.”

Rodgers has been long conscious of the comparisons to his predecessor, who was defined by his toughness. Favre never missed a start during his 16 years as the Packers' quarterback.

There’s a vocal segment of the Packers’ fan base that has insisted that Favre would have been back by now. Those fans are misguided because no matter whose collarbone was broken, McKenzie, the team's physician, would not have cleared him.

So why was Rodgers so insistent on this message?

Perhaps Rodgers wanted the term “organizational decision” used so that it was clear the decision was out of his hands. Rodgers himself used the term “organizational and medical decision” three times on Thursday when discussing his possible return.

Rodgers said he felt he was ready to play prior to the Dec. 15 game against the Dallas Cowboys.

From the beginning, this has never been about toughness. If the doctor says someone can’t play, he can’t play.

However, McCarthy may have complicated the matter on Thursday when he said Rodgers “looks like he’s ready to play.”

“He understands where we are,” McCarthy said on Friday. “I mean, everything’s been explained but he obviously wants to play. The kid’s played with injuries, he’s a tough guy, and like I said, he’s done everything he could possibly do to get back on the field.”

Perhaps the greater concern here is that, as Mortensen reported on "Sunday NFL Countdown," the situation created “palpable tension between the coach and quarterback.”