Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hopes to avoid knee brace

GREEN BAY, Wis. — There’s good news and potentially bad news for Aaron Rodgers.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback could have his top three receivers back together for Monday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, but he might be a little less mobile than he’d like.

Rodgers experienced what he called a setback with his ailing left knee during last Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, when he took a hit from linebacker Christian Jones on the game’s opening drive.

For the first time since he was injured in the season opener, Rodgers wore a smaller, lighter brace against the Lions. Now there’s a chance he may have to go back to the larger brace that he wore in the three games immediate following the injury.

“I hope not,” Rodgers said. “The goal would be to wear the same brace I wore last week, but I have a lot of faith in our training staff and we’re going to [use] the brace we feel is most safe and allowing me to do exactly what I’m able to do on Monday.”

Rodgers did not practice on Thursday, the Packers’ first of the week in advance of the 49ers game. That followed the same pattern as the last month. He said he hoped to practice on Friday; the past two weeks, he has taken part in that full-pads workout (which is normally on Thursday in advance of a Sunday game).

He did, however, call what happened against the Lions a setback. He threw for 442 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions but was done in by two first-half fumbles on strip sacks, marking only the third time in his career that he lost two fumbles in a game.

“Yeah, kind of a setback last week, the beginning of the week,” Rodgers said. “Got to be in the rehab group again today, got a lot of good work in with [assistant trainer] Nate [Weir] and just hoping I get back out there tomorrow and have a feel-good Friday and a practice [Sunday] and be good to go — hopefully back to where I was in Detroit.”

While Rodgers worked with the trainers, receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison were surprise participants at practice on Thursday after missing the Detroit game. Both had hamstring injuries; Allison also was diagnosed with a concussion. Coach Mike McCarthy said before Thursday’s practice that Allison had cleared the concussion protocol, but indications were both receivers would be in the rehab group.

Instead, they went through at least part of practice, meaning the trio of Cobb, Allison and No. 1 receiver Davante Adams are on the verge of a reunion. The trio hasn’t played together since Week 3 because Cobb missed the previous two games.

Against the Lions, it was Adams and three rookie receivers. Two of them, Marquez Valdes-Scantling (seven catches for 68 yards) and Equanimeous St. Brown (three for 89) made contributions, but Adams (nine for 140 and a touchdown) did the majority of the work.

“I think we can be one of the best in the league,” Adams said of the trio of himself, Cobb and Allison. “I honestly think that because obviously you know how I feel about myself and my game. Randall’s been doing this thing for a long time, longer than I have. I have the utmost respect for him, and G-Mo goes about his business as good as anybody else in the league. So the sky’s the limit for him. I feel like he has not even come close to reaching his potential. He’s shown flashes, but he can do a lot for us.”

Perhaps that will help the Packers get off to a faster start, something Rodgers has identified as a goal. Although they’re 10th in the NFL in total offense, they are tied for 18th in scoring and tied for 19th in red-zone touchdown percentage. They have been outscored 42-13 in first quarters this season and 76-43 in first halves, while averaging just 23 points per game.

“It’s definitely below, and we’ve kind of been stuck at that number,” Rodgers said. “Scored that a couple of times — 22, 24, way up to 29 in Week 2. Not quite the standard that we’ve set here over the years with the type of offense we think we can have and the type of offense we think we could have coming out of training camp.

“I told you guys Week 1 it’s going to be a work in progress; I don’t think we’re far off. I feel kind of like after Washington a couple of years ago [2016, Week 11]. We are very close to getting things going and like I said then and I’ll say again now, I feel like if we can get off to a better start on offense, it makes the entire squad play with a different type of confidence.

“We need to lead from the front as an offense and as a team and give our defense an opportunity to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback and make them a little more one-dimensional.”

A full complement of receivers and the smaller knee brace could help.

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Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill has ‘Tannehill 2.0’ sticker on knee brace

DAVIE, Fla. — When Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill took the field for the first official practice of training camp, the bulky brace on his surgically repaired left knee might have created an understandable moment of pause for some.

He wasn’t wearing it during OTAs. And he’d created the impression that his knee, almost one year from the day he tore his ACL, would give him no limitations. The good news? He confirmed after practice, indeed, his knee remains without issue.

“I’m going to wear it in games, so [wearing it in practice] is just to get used to it,” said Tannehill, who has a sticker with the words “Tannehill 2.0” affixed to the back of the brace. “It’s purely to prevent what started this whole thing — getting hit in the side of the knee. It has nothing to do with stability. A lot of quarterbacks do it because it gives you less of a chance [of injuring your plant leg]. I’ve stayed away in the past. But I’ve learned it’s better to do it than not.”

Tannehill told reporters, however, that he wasn’t aware of the “2.0.” sticker until he noticed it during practice and that the number refers to the brace and not a different version of himself.

“I think they’ve made like four or five different braces for me to try out, and have backups of backups in case one gets bent or whatever. So [it’s] just the way they labeled them so they can keep them straight,” he said, according to the South-Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said the brace is not “something that I’m really thinking about.”

“Eventually we’ll have to start working on sliding a different way than he’s used to,” Gase said.

The new approach is merely one of many ways Tannehill has evolved. The others, like a more deliberate and genuine effort to vibe with his pass-catches, are probably even more important to what will be a critical 2018 season for the seven-year veteran.

“I learned a lot over the past 16 months through the injury,” Tannehill said. “I learned a lot through the process, and I have a better appreciation of being out here. Not taking the little things for granted. I do what I love and have people around me that I care about.”

On a video posted to Instagram, set to Jay Z’s Public Service Announcement that include the lyric “allow me to reintroduce myself,” Tannehill thanked his teammates for grinding with him through the offseason. It showed him throwing passes to a number of his players away from the team’s Davie facility.

One receiver not shown in the video, though, might be among the most important to the upcoming season: Newly acquired wide receiver Danny Amendola. A free-agency signing this year, Amendola could be an ideal outlet for Tannehill. During Thursday’s practice, the two seemed to already have a nice level of on-field chemistry.

“We have two great connections in tight windows,” Tannehill said. “[Amendola] is a veteran guy who can get open in tight windows. And he knows how to manipulate situations so that he can get open. It doesn’t take a whole lot of space for him to get open and make those catches in tight windows.”

That’s an especially good — albeit extremely early — sign since somebody will need to pick up the production that left South Florida with Jarvis Landry‘s departure for the Browns. While Landry’s fit in Miami’s locker room remained a hot topic this offseason after he left — including Landry’s criticism that he didn’t have “a good relationship” with Tannehill — there is no question about the pair’s connection on the field.

In Landry’s three years when Tannehill was the starter, he never caught fewer than 80 passes in a season. Without Landry, and with no clear No. 1 receiver on the team’s roster at this point, the Dolphins are expected to employ more of a committee approach that includes some combination of Amendola, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant.

Interestingly, Gase believes his group of wide receivers might be the team’s deepest position, even if it isn’t the most talented position. In other words, Gase has depth — a logjam of guys that could also seriously compete for significant catches in 2018. The team must hope, however, those players elevate to that point rather than simply tread water.

And that’s where Tannehill comes into play: If he can help these wide receivers excel, he might be on the brink of what many in South Florida believe could be his best season yet.

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