Wisconsin Sports Briefs: Rodgers will start against the Bears…
Aaron Rodgers will be back in the saddle on Sunday, leading the Green Bay Packers in a winner-take-all game at Chicago for the NFC North Division title.
Coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday afternoon that his MVP quarterback had been medically cleared to play against the Bears, after he suffered a broken left collarbone against that same Chicago team on Nov. 4.
McCarthy said the decision was made on Christmas Eve, but he didn't want to make it public until after the team was told Thursday morning.
Rodgers has practiced for the last three weeks. McCarthy says he hopes it will shake off some of the rust you'd expect after he missed the better part of eight games.
The Packers were 2-5-1 without Rodgers. Only in the last three weeks did they feel any kind of comfort in playing well and winning without him.
By all accounts, Rodgers looked good throwing the ball, but questions remained about whether he could take a hard hit to his left shoulder without re-injuring the collarbone.
McCarthy said Rodgers accepted the risk factor involved. The coach noted that all 46 players on Green Bay's game-day roster will be at some risk of injuries.
McCarthy added, "We've done our due diligence. We've got through all the evaluations, and feel it is time. Aaron is ready to play."
If the Packers win on Sunday, they'll host a playoff game the following weekend. If not, they'll miss the post-season for the first time in five years.
Badgers hope to improve passing game
Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen freely admits the Badgers' recent inability to make long pass plays down-field.
He says opposing defenses have literally dared the Badgers to throw the long bomb, and it has worked out for those opponents.
In 12 games this season, the Badgers have made 34 passes of 20 yards or more, but only nine have come in Wisconsin's last five games.
Senior receiver Jared Abbrederis has seven catches of 30 yards or more this year. None came in the Badgers' last six contests. His last catch in that department came during Week 6, a 63-yarder for a touchdown against Northwestern.
Quarterback Joel Stave has seen his share of dropped passes, including a 49-yarder to Abbrederis against Minnesota. He also had some over-throws during the regular season finale loss to Penn State.
Wisconsin plays South Carolina next Wednesday in the Capital One Bowl. The Gamecocks give up an average of 203 passing yards per game. They've allowed 13 touchdowns, while throwing 15 interceptions.