Rodgers will return for showdown vs. Bears

Updated: December 26, 2013, 4:08 PM ET news services

Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers will start Sunday’s NFC North showdown against the Chicago Bears, returning less than two months after suffering an injury to his left collarbone.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy announced the team’s decision Thursday, three days before Green Bay (7-7-1) takes on rival Chicago (8-7) in a game that will determine the NFC North champion.

Rodgers has been sidelined since breaking his collarbone in a loss to the Bears on Nov. 4, missing seven consecutive games. Green Bay went 2-4-1 over that stretch but still has a chance to secure its third straight division title.

“I’m excited. I feel good for Aaron,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think people realize the stress he’s been under. He’s been on board with playing for quite some time.”

Despite practicing on a limited basis over the past few weeks, Rodgers had not been medically cleared to play until this week.

“Every football player that plays in this game has risk,” McCarthy said. “We’ve done our due diligence, gone through the evaluations and feel it’s time.”

The Packers have been riddled by injuries. Linebacker Clay Matthews is out again with a right thumb injury and running back Eddie Lacy is hobbled by an ankle injury, though McCarthy is optimistic about the rookie’s chances to go Sunday.

“I feel Eddie is in good place,” McCarthy said. “I expect him to play.”

Green Bay has also gone the majority of the season without tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) and play-making receiver Randall Cobb (leg).

Still, the Packers managed to start 5-2 despite the injuries with Rodgers leading the offense.

Things changed drastically after the 2011 NFL MVP got hurt after being sacked while scrambling out of the pocket in the Week 9 loss to Chicago at Lambeau Field. The Packers went on a five-game winless skid, shuffling through three more starting quarterbacks.

Green Bay then won two straight with backup Matt Flynn before falling 38-31 last week to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Losses by Chicago and the Detroit Lions set up the winner-take-all finale Sunday with the Bears for the division and a home playoff game the following weekend. Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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