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Zulgad: Vikings defenders will have to watch their weight when hitting Rodgers

Sep 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws in front of Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (55) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said Aaron Rodgers is day-to-day and would spend Wednesday’s practice working with other players who are rehabilitating injuries. This is the beginning of a dance that will last all week but ultimately will see Rodgers start on Sunday against the Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers left the Packers’ game Sunday against Chicago in the second quarter after suffering an injury to his left knee — Green Bay trailed 20-0 at the time — but returned in the second half to rally the Packers to a 24-23 victory at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers said after the game that he would play against Minnesota, and the Vikings have made it clear they are preparing to face Rodgers. The fact he won’t have his normal mobility would appear to be an advantage for one of the NFL’s top defenses.

But there is one interesting issue that figures to come into play and will be even more interesting to watch since Rodgers figures to be a statue in the pocket.

Rodgers season basically came to an end last Oct. 15 when Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr landed on him just after he released the ball at U.S. Bank Stadium. That left Rodgers with a broken right collarbone. No flag was even thrown on the play.

Since guys like Rodgers being out for an extended period is bad for the NFL’s business, the league decided during the offseason that a hit such as Barr’s now will be a 15-yard penalty. Rule 12, Article 9 of the league’s rulebook prevents defenders from landing on a quarterback with almost all or most of their body weight while the quarterback is in a defenseless position.

Referees were enforcing this rule in Week 1 of the season, with 14 roughing the passer calls made as opposed to seven in Week 1 a year ago. This included a call on Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson in the fourth quarter of Minnesota’s victory over San Francisco.

Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president for officiating, already told NFL.com a mistake was made when Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett was called for roughing the passer in the second quarter of the Browns’ 21-21 tie with Pittsburgh. Garrett drew a flag after landing on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on a third-down incompletion. Running back James Conner scored on the next play to give the Steelers a 6-0 lead.

That was one of the five Week 1 roughing the passer calls made as a result of the referee feeling a defender put too much of his body weight on the quarterback.

“The rule specifically says, ‘most, if not all, of your body weight,'” Riveron told NFL.com. “So we want that player to make an effort. And the last three or four weeks, we have pulled extensive video to show the clubs exactly what we’re talking about. … Because the question we get all the time is, ‘Well, what do you want our players to do?’

“Well, they have to not put the weight on the quarterback. And this one (on Sunday) showed, even though there is some body weight on Ben, this is not what we would consider contact that rises to the level of a foul.”

Got all that? I didn’t think so.

Do you really think Tony Corrente’s crew on Sunday won’t be looking to throw flags in a game that involves the quarterback and defender who caused The Aaron Rodgers Rule to be passed?

Now, add in the fact that Rodgers figures to have problems avoiding the pressure that guys like Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Richardson and, yes, Barr are likely to bring against the Packers quarterback.

Seems like a recipe for yellow flags to litter the field, if there is any doubt about how much weight of a Vikings defender landed on Rodgers. This also seems like a recipe for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer to potentially lose his mind.

In other words, it should be an interesting day and don’t assume just because Rodgers hits the turf that it won’t be a 15-yard gain for the Packers.





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