The good news: Aaron Rodgers was at Green Bay Packers practice, and according to head coach Mike McCarthy, the 2011 NFL MVP looked like he was ready to suit up for the team's Week 16 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Looked very good at practice," McCarthy said, via USA Today's Pete Dougherty. "I would state him ready to play. But once again we're going through the process, make sure we're getting Matt (Flynn) ready to play. Matt took the majority of reps (in practice today)."
The bad news: Rodgers didn't take any first-team reps in the part of the Packers' practice session open to the media. And, according to Dougherty, Rodgers' "terse" interactions with reporters on Thursday seem to indicate he'll be spending Week 16 in a bulky coat for the seventh straight time.
"Didn't take a lot of reps with the team but felt pretty good out there, was feeling good," Rodgers said. "It's obviously a medical decision and an organizational decision at this point."
You had a sense this was coming. The Packers announced Wednesday that their medical staff was not comfortable clearing Rodgers to play, despite the franchise quarterback being eight weeks removed from suffering a broken left collarbone in Green Bay's 27-20 loss to Chicago in Week 7. It's been a frustrating process for Green Bay, which went 0-4-1 over its first five games without Rodgers (including its loss to the Bears).
Left dead in the water, there were some who wondered whether the Packers were better off shutting Rodgers down for good.
Two straight victories coupled with the implosion of the Detroit Lions have some fans wondering why in the hell he isn't back already. This is always a dangerous rabbit hole, but just search "Aaron Rodgers" and a pejorative term. You'll be amazed by the vitriol.
I hope you all, logical fans without medical degrees, can agree that this is asinine.
Sure, there is an understandable (if convoluted) fan logic behind this. With a win, the Packers clinch a chance to play for the NFC North championship in Week 17 against Chicago—something that was unthinkable a couple weeks ago. Rodgers is the franchise quarterback, a guy who may someday reach the Brett Favre-Bart Starr level of adoration.
You pay a franchise quarterback nine figures for these moments. He's supposed to be out there on the field, leading the huddle and making the throws and leading your team to GLORY. It's supposed to be super fun and super awesome and you'll all go out for a beer afterward because Rodgers is JUST ONE OF THE GUYS.
It's a strange thing with injuries in sports. Suddenly everyone with a social media account has a medical degree and is therefore free to express their opinions when it's "right" for a player to come back.
Derrick Rose was all the pejorative terms for his decision to not return during last season's playoff run with the Chicago Bulls. He wasn't just some of them; he was all of them. The chorus grew louder and louder, and suddenly some people with communications degrees were dishing out medical advice. (See Sports Pickle's breakdown for how you columnize Rose.)
It would probably take Green Bay making the playoffs sans Rodgers for the Wisconsin-based #hottake artists to start calling Rodgers out. Just know that anyone without a medical degree who calls Rodgers out for not returning and letting his team down is a dumb person. You should not associate with them anymore so you can avoid the siphoning of your precious IQ by proxy.
For the nondelusional, I understand the temptation to want Rodgers to play. The best part of being a sports fan is losing yourself in the irrational relationship you have with people who literally have no clue you exist.
Sundays are the one opportunity you have to lose all the other crap from your life and escape. Having a terrible boss, a disappointing love life or barely enough money to make ends meet? All of that washes away.
What alcoholics find at the bottom of a bottle, the average sports fan finds in every touchdown—sometimes with the help of alcohol!
It's those emotions that make folks push so hard for Rodgers to come back. Packers fans don't have any interest in watching Matt Flynn play football. They've seen quite enough of that, thank you. They'd prefer seeing the dude who has only worn one uniform this season—not three.
That's not to wax poetic about fandom or excuse any behaviors. Sports fandom is as inherently dumb as the console wars, BeyHive vs. Rihanna or any other thing people spend way too much time obsessing over.
And, folks, that's why there are doctors. They spent at least eight years in school, went through the hell of residency and then worked their way all the way up to becoming renowned enough to work on professional athletes. (Hey, I know how this works—I watch Grey's Anatomy!)
Dr. Pat McKenzie is the one calling the shots here. He's the one who has the final say whether Rodgers is cleared—no matter the pressures from management, McCarthy or Rodgers himself. The fact that he hasn't cleared Rodgers to play indicates one thing: His collarbone is not healed enough to play. It says nothing about Rodgers' will, his drive, his leadership. Just as Rose's decision to sit out last year said nothing about his will to win.
So Rodgers will be back when he's back. If that's Week 17, the Wild Card Round or next season, so be it. If that's upsetting, do yourself a favor and stay off social media—you're making sports fans look dumber than we already are.
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