The Green Bay Packers' patience has paid off, and fans got their wish.
The Packers couldn't muster a win in the month of November with replacement signal-callers Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn under center.
During that time, the Green Bay faithful watched its once almost assuredly postseason-bound team slip out of the NFC playoff picture.
The Packers front office, coaching and training staff weren't initially definitive about when Rodgers could return after the November 4 injury, but prominent NFL insiders sent out these tweets in the aftermath:
More definitive scans today but initial tests showed small fracture in Aaron Rodgers' collarbone that could sideline him about three weeks.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 5, 2013
A day later:
Said on @FOXSportsLive, source pins it at roughly 4-6 weeks for Aaron Rodgers. Fourth week tricky b/c T'giving game is 3.5 wks from injury.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 6, 2013
Garafolo's report provided a glimmer of hope for Rodgers to return for the colossal NFC North showdown against the Lions in Detroit on Thanksgiving.
Flynn started, and the Packers offensive stumbled to 3.0 yards per play and lost 40-10. The loss came immediately following an embarrassing tie at home to the Christian Ponder-led Minnesota Vikings.
As the defeats stacked, the restlessness regarding Rodgers grew to a stifling level.
Enough was enough.
The former league MVP had been sidelined for five weeks heading into Green Bay's home contest against the Atlanta Falcons.
Then NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted this:
Dec. 8 has been the target date for #Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to return. Source now tells me “he’d be lucky” to be able to return this week— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 1, 2013
But, again, the team doctors exercised extreme caution and held him out for Week 14's game against Matt Ryan and Co.
Green Bay came back from a 21-10 third-quarter deficit to win 22-21.
Week 14's intraconference clash with the Cowboys was going to be the one.
After all, it had been six weeks since Rodgers' suffered his broken collarbone.
Although he participated in individual drills on Wednesday and practiced on Thursday and Friday of that week, again, the Packers front office and coaching staff listened to doctors and ruled Rodgers out.
In one of the most wild rallies of the 2013 campaign, Flynn erased a 26-3 deficit to beat the Cowboys in Dallas 37-36.
Still not medically cleared, Green Bay stayed true to its conservative plan with its franchise player—arguably the finest quarterback in the NFL—and ruled out Rodgers for Week 16's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a crushing 38-31 defeat.
But because the Bears lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 54-11, the Packers were still alive.
On the fateful day of December 26, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sent the tweet every Packers fan hoped to read for the entire month of December:
Aaron Nagler, one of Bleacher Report's national NFL Lead Writers and longtime Packers fan and blogger, went on Twitter-style rant on Christmas that likely summed up how many Green Bay followers felt:
Ok, my 2 cents. Yes, Rodgers could re-injure his shoulder Sunday. He could also go down on opening day in 2014. He should play Sunday.— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) December 25, 2013
If it's truly "He could injure himself so badly as to jeopardize his career" put him on injured reserve and be done with it.— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) December 25, 2013
For an organization that loves to parade it's fans as "owners", the @packers have really played them for suckers through this whole ordeal.— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) December 25, 2013
You only get so many bites at the apple. Wolf and Favre thought they'd be back in the Super Bowl a few more times after they lost to DEN...— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) December 25, 2013
Ultimately, it's Ted's call. His aversion to risk suggests Rodgers won't play again this year. So why the charade? It's disingenuous.— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) December 25, 2013
Nagler's sentiments were valid, logical and the result of frustration that came from what he routinely called the weekly "dog and pony show" regarding press conferences which tip-toed around Rodgers' availability.
Essentially, he wanted a concrete decision either way, and he felt the way in which the Packers drew out the situation was unfair to the fans.
In the Packers' defense, they maintained throughout the "saga" that they weren't ever thinking about placing Rodgers on the Injured-Reserve list:
Jay says the Packers have NOT internally discussed shutting down QB Aaron Rodgers.— FOX Football Daily (@FFD) December 4, 2013
But now, it's all irrelevant.
At the outset of Rodgers' injury, Green Bay clearly wanted to proceed carefully with its franchise quarterback.
Mike McCarthy was a bit tight-lipped and cryptic, which fueled the anxiety.
At this point, the Packers organization finally feels comfortable placing its elite quarterback on the field for the "NFC North title game." Though they were aided by some luck in December, the careful, prudent way Green Bay's front office, training and coaching staff approached Rodgers' return from injury deserves praise.
Because, heck, keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field while the team's playoff hopes grew dimmer each week couldn't have been very easy.