Aaron Rodgers cleared to play, will start vs. Bears

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers will get their franchise quarterback back just in time for the crucial NFC North showdown with the Bears.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers received medical clearance on Thursday and will make his long-awaited return on Sunday against the Chicago Bearsas first reported by Paul Imig of FOX Sports Wisconsin and confirmed by head coach Mike McCarthy.

"We've done our due diligence, we've gone through all the evaluations and we feel Aaron is ready to play," McCarthy said a press conference Friday.

"He's ready to play. He's been throwing the ball very well going on three weeks. He's been working his feet, working his conditioning, getting ready for this moment and that moment's here."

Rodgers hasn't played since the last meeting between Chicago and Green Bay in Week 9. He started that game, but suffered a fractured collarbone on the first drive when he was sacked by Bears defensive end Shea McClellin and landed awkwardly on his left shoulder.

McCarthy said both the team and Rodgers are aware of the risks in bringing him back.

"Every football player that plays this game will have risk, and we understand that," McCarthy said. "Aaron has accepted the level of risk. It's been a stressful period for him and I think he's just relieved to play."

Green Bay went 2-4-1 without Rodgers in the lineup, but the Packers still control their own destiny. Rodgers' return comes just in time for him to play in what amounts to a NFC North title game. The winner of the game Sunday in Chicago will win the division and host a playoff game.

It's been a long and frustrating road back to the lineup for Rodgers. Initial reports suggested he could be out for as little as three weeks, with a common recovery time of four to six weeks. The Packers did not put a timeline on his return and instead took it as a week-to-week process. The weeks, however, continued to drag on. He returned to practice -- albeit on a limited basis -- in Week 14 and there was some optimism he would be able to return for the stretch run. Despite continuing to go through practices and Rodgers' claims that he felt better, he did not receive medical clearance until now.

The Packers used a trio of quarterbacks with Rodgers out. Seneca Wallace started the first game before landing on injured reserve. Scott Tolzien stepped into the lineup for two starts before being replaced by Matt Flynn, who Green Bay signed after Wallace was injured. Flynn started four games and put up respectable numbers, including an outstanding second half in a comeback win against the Dallas Cowboys that allowed Green Bay to remain in the race. The Packers went 2-2 in his four starts, just good enough to stay in the race.

Even with Flynn having some success, he was far from matching Rodgers' production. Before the injury, Rodgers was having a typical season by his standards, completing 67 percent of his passes for 2,218 yards, 15 touchdowns, four interceptions and 8.8 yards per attempt. He might have some rust to work off after missing seven weeks, but at least he has some practice reps under his belt. Rodgers also returns against a favorable opponent, with the Bears ranking 26th in the NFL in yards per attempt allowed.

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