You could almost here the hope in his disembodied voice.
"Is he not playing?" Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday.
Rodgers had been asked just how different the 49ers defense looked without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Smith on the field. So yeah, you could say Rodgers sounded hopeful when he asked his question.
It was dashed, so to speak, when the answer to Rodgers' question was essentially, no one knows yet if Smith's left triceps injury would keep him out of Saturday's NFC divisional playoff game.
"I think they're very deep," Rodgers allowed. "(Ricky Jean) Francois can come in and make a lot of plays. He did a great job in the Patriots game of (squashing) that drive after the Patriots had tied it up…Francois had a couple real nice plays there, back to back, snuffing that drive out. He's a talented player."
No one, though, on the 49ers roster has played like Smith.
"Justin is a player that everyone in the league respects for his talent and ability," Rodgers said. "I enjoyed spending time with him at the Pro Bowl last year. I think he's a real fun guy to be around and a great player."
Thing is, if Green Bay had not gone to sleep in Week 17 and lost at Minnesota, the Packers would have enjoyed the bye week as the NFC's No. 2 seed, rather than the 49ers, who actually would have played host to the Chicago Bears in a wild card-round game.
Was it hard for the Packers to regroup, refocus and, ahem, refit after losing to the Vikings and then have to turn around and play host to the same team six days later?
"It was difficult because I think a lot of us were looking forward to a week off," Rodgers said. "And getting Charles (Woodson) another week to get healthy, and Randall (Cobb), some of our guys who are little banged up. So that was disappointing, but a lot of our fans actually wanted us to not have a bye. They said we did it in 2010 and didn't need a bye. But some of us older players were really hoping for it."
Two years ago, though, the Packers entered the playoffs as the NFC's No. 6 seed and won three straight playoff games on the road, at Philadelphia, at Atlanta and at Chicago, before upsetting Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
"We won our division so we got to have a home (wild card) game, which gave us a good advantage with our crowd and the weather and now we know what's in front of us," Rodgers said. "We've got to go on the road and play a really good football team."
Then is it the same feel from 2010?
"I think it's two different years, two different teams," Rodgers said. "That team had its own set of adversity and obstacles to overcome and this team has an entirely different set."