CHARLOTTE, NC – Julius Peppers stopped on his way to the Bank of America Stadium on Sunday to speak for a minute or two about his former teammate, Aaron Rodgers.
Yes, Peppers admitted, he let a little pass in his shared looting of Rodgers in the fourth quarter of the Carolina Panthers' 31-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers, telling ESPN.com he wanted to "get the ball, but make sure that [Rodgers] is not hurt. "
Then Peppers added:" Be nice to the guys there "and left for the afternoon in North Carolina.
Not everyone will be so kind to Rodgers.
And that's why Packers coach Mike McCarthy will have to make a tough decision about whether he will play against his two-time NFL MVP quarterback or close him for the rest of the season if the Packers are eliminated from the consideration of the playoffs.
That's a decision that McCarthy and his team – probably with some Rodgers consultation – might have to take before the players return to work on Tuesday morning. If the Atlanta Falcons beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football, the Packers will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008, Rodgers' first season as a starter.
And there are still two games left to play. in the schedule.
Yes, there's Rodgers and there's everyone else. The world of football is not an egalitarian society.
But what kind of message would you send if McCarthy turns off Rodgers for the rest of the year?
McCarthy may already know how he's going to play, though he did not offer any clues after the Packers lost 31-24 on Sunday in Carolina in Rodgers' first game in two months, after breaking his right collarbone.
Many would say it's a no-brainer to sit down with Rodgers on Saturday at home against the Minnesota Vikings and again at the end of the regular season in the Detroit Lions. Why put him at risk of re-injuring his right clavicle surgically repaired or suffering any other injury?
But what do you say to David Bakhtiari, your stallion left the tackle?
Or Davante Adams, if he was erased from the concussion that left him out of Sunday's game?
Or Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb?
Or Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels, Nick Perry, Morgan Burnett, Damarious Randall and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix?
None of them has a right clavicle with 13 screws and two plates in it. None of them has been in the injury reserve in the last eight weeks.
But Rodgers received medical clearance to play Sunday against the Panthers and did not shy away from running or contacting. In fact, he was more aggressive than he was when he returned from his left clavicle fracture in 2013; That day, he stirred only once and went down to the lawn before he could be hit with two of his three sacks. Against the Panthers, he turned six times for 43 yards and was caught three times.
No one would blame McCarthy for playing safe with his quarterback. It is the easiest, and even the correct, way to go.
He even took Rodgers to the final moments of his nine-minute press conference after the game to say, "Well, I'm a competitor, until they tell me otherwise, I hope to play."
Until then, he was evasive, saying that "I would see how I feel tomorrow and I would make a decision at that time".
If Rodgers plays Saturday night against Minnesota, it would be a rematch with Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, whose hit in Week 6 broke his collarbone to Rodgers. Most likely, Barr does not treat Rodgers like Peppers did on Sunday in Carolina.