Aaron Rodgers could be held out if Packers are eliminated from playoff contention

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In past seasons, the Green Bay Packers have been in position to rest Aaron Rodgers late in the season to prepare for the playoffs. They haven't been in position to hold him out because they didn't make the playoffs since his first season as a starter.

By the end of Monday night, that could be a reality. If the Atlanta Falcons win at Tampa Bay, the Packers will be eliminated from playoff contention with two games to go.

That could mean that Rodgers' return Sunday from his broken right collarbone could be short-lived.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy was noncommittal about playing Rodgers against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night or in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions if the playoffs are out of reach.

"Well, let's focus on today. We lost the game today," McCarthy said after Sunday's 31-24 loss at the Carolina Panthers. "We'll get back, and we'll assess it. We play a game in six days. That's what we're focused on."

Rodgers threw three touchdowns and three interceptions in his first game since his Oct. 15 injury at Minnesota. It was his first three-interception game since 2009.

The Packers (7-7) came into the game knowing they probably needed to win their remaining three regular-season games to have any chance at a ninth straight playoff appearance.

"Well, it's not the fairytale that we were hoping," Rodgers said. "As I lay in that surgery bed eight weeks ago thinking about this moment, obviously, I saw it going a little differently. But I'm proud of our guys for the way they played the last few weeks. Today, disappointed. I didn't play very well. Obviously, I hold myself to a high standard. I expected to play well. It's a good defense, but I made too many mistakes. Even still, we had a chance there at the end to come back and tie it."

Rodgers hasn't missed a regular-season finale -- let alone the final two regular-season games -- since 2011. That year, the Packers were 14-1 and had already wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC going into the regular-season finale. McCarthy started Matt Flynn, who won in Rodgers' place.

"Well, I'm a competitor," Rodgers said. "Until they tell me otherwise, I'm expecting to play."

Rodgers said he was sore after his first game in two months but otherwise experienced no issues with his surgically repaired collarbone.

"I'm going to see how I feel tomorrow," he said. "Like I said, I'm a little sore. We'll see how I feel tomorrow and make a decision at that point."

And if the Packers have been eliminated?

"Again, that's out of my control," Rodgers said.