Rodgers returns to practice; Thu. start uncertain

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers returned to practice on Monday after skipping last week's preseason game in Baltimore and the practice that immediately followed because of tightness in his back, something he has rarely -- if ever -- been bothered by in the past.

That doesn't mean the Green Bay Packers quarterback will play in Thursday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders in Winnipeg -- or at all before the Sept. 5 regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears.

Rodgers said after the 1-hour, 57-minute padded practice that he "felt pretty good," and coach Matt LaFleur said Rodgers "looked pretty good today to me."

Even though Rodgers is learning a new offense with a new coach for the first time since he became the starter in 2008, neither he nor LaFleur has prioritized game reps before Week 1. Rodgers has long maintained that he gets more out of practices because of the myriad looks his defense shows while installing its scheme than he would out of vanilla defenses that teams show in preseason.

However, Rodgers said he and the starters will "go out and compete" if that's what LaFleur wants.

"I do find it interesting that some teams get a pass this time of year," Rodgers said. "The Rams don't play [any starters], and not many people talk about that fact. Now, the counter would be, 'Well, this is a new system.' I get it, but we've spent a number of practices from May and June and training camp in July and now in August running this stuff, running unscripted periods, where he has to call the play in.

"I feel very comfortable in the offense conceptually, philosophically, enunciating the plays, getting us in the right formation, getting the checks within the play easily figured out. I feel very comfortable with it. If we didn't play, I'd feel great going into Week 1. If we did, I wouldn't really be worried too much about the results. If we go down and score a touchdown, it's not going to give me any more confidence than I already have in the scheme. If we go three-and-out, it's not going to dampen any confidence that I have in what we've established so far in the training camp practices."

LaFleur echoed Rodgers' sentiments.

"I don't think it's going to make or break us one way or the other," the first-year coach said. "Again, I've got so much confidence in him, and I know our guys do as well, and we've gotten a lot of good work, so I'm not overly concerned either way, whether he plays or not."

General manager Brian Gutekunst said earlier Monday that he would like to see Rodgers knock off some game rust before the opener, but if he doesn't, his "level of concern wouldn't be high," even though Rodgers has a new scheme to master.

"It's not like it's a different sport, you know what I mean?" Gutekunst said. "Football's football. Again, we'd love to have him out there. But again, I think he got a lot practice reps against Houston. I know he wasn't a fan of them, but those two days versus Houston, I think, were important, to get out there in that environment. So like I said, I think the plan is to get him out there Thursday night, and we'll see about Kansas City. But hopefully that will go well."

LaFleur had planned to play Rodgers for about a quarter in last Thursday's preseason game at Baltimore but called it off at the last minute. Rodgers and most of the starters also sat out the preseason opener against the Texans.

"It kind of locked up on me last week," Rodgers said of his back. "I was just going through treatment Wednesday and Thursday, the morning of the game. I was just slowly feeling better every day. Thought about practicing yesterday, but today was kind of a better option for me. So felt good out there."

Rodgers said he couldn't pinpoint the exact time or cause of the back tightness.

"Sometimes you can sleep on it weird and wake up and it bothers you," he said. "Sometimes in the weight room, you can do something. Or a throw. I feel like it was the one day we had last week, Tuesday, it was a little colder than the other days we had. Sometimes when it goes from hot to cold, it can lock you up a little bit. But I don't think there's any specific moment. It certainly feels good now."