Tommy John, godfather of pitcher surgeries, worked as a TV analyst on Twins broadcasts in the 1990s, meaning Minnesota has played host to one eponymous sports figure.
We may have another. The NFL’s new “body weight’’ directive should be renamed the “Anthony Barr Rule.’’ When Barr rode Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the ground last fall, landing on Rodgers’ shoulder, Barr prompted an officiating change that offends violence-loving football fans and should make sense to anyone who wants the league to remain watchable.
Rodgers missed most of the 2017 season after Barr rodeoed him to the U.S. Bank Stadium turf. The Packers finished 7-9. If possible, the 2018 Packers are even more dependent on the most important player in football, because their backup is future Lyft driver DeShone Kizer.
The Packers would prefer not to be embarrassed in a home game against the defending division champs, so the feeling around the Vikings this week is that Rodgers will attempt to play on Sunday at Lambeau.
Here’s the test the Packers should administer while making the decision: If you wonder whether Rodgers is healthy enough to play in Week 2, he’s not healthy enough to play in Week 2. Another Rodgers injury would be terrible for him, his franchise and the league.
Last Sunday, Rodgers was carted off the field after the Chicago Bears injured his left knee. He returned in the second half and staged what might have been the greatest performance of an already-legendary career. With his knee restricting his movement and throwing motion, he led the Packers from a 20-0 third-quarter deficit to a 24-23 victory at Lambeau.
As great as Brett Favre was, Rodgers is better in almost every discernible aspect of the game. Favre has held one clear advantage: His ironman streak of playing in 321 consecutive games, including playoffs, makes him the Cal Ripken of his sport — a Cal Ripken who took hits from 300-pounders every week.
Rodgers has been more human, suffering the occasional injury. His performance on Sunday displayed a different brand of toughness, because in the NFL carts are almost always final curtains.
He probably shouldn’t have returned to the field on Sunday. The decision to sit him this week should be easier, because the Packers have more time for rational analysis.
The upside of playing Rodgers on Sunday is that he may give the Packers a chance to win. The risk is that he will be relatively immobile against a frightening front four that now includes an interior pass rusher in Sheldon Richardson, the hammer to go with the tongs of Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter.
If Rodgers plays, the Vikings could end the competitive portion of Rodgers’ and the Packers’ season.
He’s 34 and may have another 5-10 years of star-quality play ahead of him, but only if his knees remain relatively healthy.
There is a portion of Vikings fandom that would cheer another Rodgers injury, which is both disgusting and misguided. Minnesotans should enjoy watching greatness while they can. More to the point, they should enjoy watching what might be the best defense in football accepting the challenge of facing one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Playing Rodgers might even be good for the Vikings. Remember 1998? The Vikings won a lot of blowouts against terrible quarterbacks. When they faced Chris Chandler in the NFC Championship Game, they seemed a little surprised at their vulnerabilities against someone who could competently run an offense and deal with crowd noise.
The Packers-Vikings rivalry wouldn’t be the same without a healthy Rodgers. Nor would the NFL.
I hope the Packers rest Rodgers on Sunday, and he returns, fully healthy, later this month to make the league and the NFC North interesting. I hope he’s under center on Nov. 25 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Football is better with Aaron Rodgers. Without him, there will be one fewer NFL team worth watching.
Jim Souhan’s podcasts can be found at TalkNorth.com.
On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org