New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers moved one step closer to an improbable early comeback as he returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis — exactly 11 weeks after surgery to repair a torn Achilles.
Rodgers was cleared for “functional football activity” but not contact, according to coach Robert Saleh, who called this “a progression in his rehab.” Saleh said it’s too soon to say whether Rodgers will play again this season.
By rule, the Jets have 21 days to decide whether to activate Rodgers from injured reserve. The period expires Dec. 20, four days before they face the Washington Commanders — the game he’s targeting for a return.
On a 36-degree afternoon, Rodgers, wearing a red quarterback jersey, participated in a series of quarterback drills during the open portion of practice — relatively light work. He did dropbacks, threw passes to receivers (without defenders) and jogged lightly between periods to different areas of the field. Understandably, his footwork wasn’t as aggressive as the other quarterbacks’.
The four-time MVP was in an unusual position — the fourth quarterback in a four-man rotation for drills. He wasn’t scheduled to participate in 11-on-11 drills. Media weren’t allowed to take photos or video during the quarterback drills; typically, they’re permitted to do so during that portion of practice.
Saleh said “there’s no added risk” to having Rodgers participate in this fashion. He was cleared by team doctors and Los Angeles-based surgeon Neal ElAttrache, who is monitoring Rodgers’ rehab from afar. Rodgers has a detailed regimen that will intensify each week, leading to the ultimate decision on whether he will be activated.
“I think it’s remarkable what he’s doing, but he’s also smart,” Saleh said.
Rodgers, who turns 40 on Saturday, is recovering at an extraordinary pace, but this doesn’t mean he’s a lock to play. Saleh said the team is “so far away” from having to make that decision.
No NFL player has returned from Achilles surgery before the five-month mark. Rodgers will be 3½ months removed from surgery Dec. 24, when the Jets play the Commanders.
On Tuesday, Rodgers told “The Pat McAfee Show” his decision to return will be based on two factors: his health and the team’s standing in the playoff race. The Jets (4-7), losers of four straight, will need a miracle to make the postseason. Rodgers said he’d like the team to be “alive,” but that covers a lot of ground.