The countdown is on for a possible Aaron Rodgers return.
The quarterback’s 21-day practice window will open on Wednesday, Jets coach Robert Saleh told reporters.
Wednesday marked Rodgers’ first practice since he suffered an Achilles tear just four plays into his Jets debut in Week 1. While the injury is typically a season-ender, Rodgers has stated since the first few weeks after he suffered the injury that he’s aiming to return to play this season.
However, with the Jets at 4-7 and far away from their preseason Super Bowl hopes, Rodgers has also dampened some expectations of a return this season.
“It’s always been, first, am I healthy? Then, are we alive? Are we in it? Are we playing good enough to make a run? Can I step in and protect myself and play at the level that I’m capable of playing?” Rodgers said on the “Pat McAfee Show” of his process to return to play on Tuesday. “But it’s health first and are we alive for the playoffs, second.”
The opening of the 21-day practice window also comes a bit earlier than expected. FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer previously reported that Rodgers was aiming to return to practice by Dec. 2.
Saleh said the four-time NFL MVP, who turns 40 on Saturday, will be limited at practice and is not cleared for contact. Saleh said there’s no added risk in taking this step, emphasizing it’s not necessarily a signal that Rodgers will play again this season as much as it is the next part of the quarterback’s rehabilitation process.
“For Aaron, what he will be doing in practice is no different than what he’d be doing on the field, with regards to certain drills and individual (drills),” Saleh said. “Instead of throwing with staff members, he’s throwing with teammates.”
Saleh admitted that the Jets are not ready to make a decision on Rodgers’ return this season.
“We’re not there yet,” Saleh said. “A lot of guys coming off (injured reserve) are usually not ready to play football. There’s usually still a little bit of a health concern there. So you use these 21-day windows to see where they’re at.
“We’re so far away from that. But the mindset for this is more of a progression in his rehab. He’s been cleared for functional football activity. He’s not cleared to fully play football.”
Rodgers underwent surgery two days after his Achilles tear on Sept. 11. The operation included a “speed bridge” procedure, which helps expedite the healing process. Rodgers has been progressing quickly in his rehabilitation and is still aiming to make an unprecedented quick return to the field.
A video posted to the Jets’ social media accounts of Rodgers taking a snap, going through a progression and throwing a football quickly went viral, with even LeBron James weighing in in support of Rodgers.
“I think it’s sooner than anybody (anticipated),” Saleh said. “I think it’s a credit to him. I know we’re getting caught up in trying to create a narrative around him, but the true narrative is he’s old-school in the sense he is driven. Is there motivation to be the first to ever do it? Sure, but that’s OK. That’s his ‘why’ — that’s why he’s (doing it). It’s a mentality that I think young guys should be able to grab.
“He loves this organization, he wants to be with his teammates, he wants to be here.”
If the Jets haven’t activated Rodgers off injured reserve by Dec. 20, he’ll miss the remainder of the season. They play games against the Falcons, Texans and Dolphins ahead of that decision day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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