FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Aaron Rodgers circled Dec. 24 as the game that he could make his return, but he didn’t rule out coming back sooner.
“Anything is possible,” Rodgers said Thursday afternoon at the Jets' practice facility.
Rodgers is hell-bent on playing football again this season after suffering a torn left Achilles tendon on Sept. 11 and it doesn’t sound like much will stop him from doing it.
Perhaps the only thing that can is the Jets not being in the playoff hunt. They are 4-7 and next-to-last in the AFC standings.
“I don’t think that would make a ton of sense and I don’t know what the team is going to feel about that,” Rodgers said. “A comeback this year before the four-month mark would mean I’m not 100-percent healthy, so it would be a risk for myself, the team to sign off on. If we’re out of it, I would be surprised if they would OK the comeback.”
Rodgers spoke for nearly 25 minutes with reporters who regularly cover the team. At one point, Rodgers said he’s “not anywhere near ready to play.” Yet a main topic was how determined Rodgers is and has been to do everything possible to make a miraculous return from what has most often been a season-ending injury.
Rodgers, who turns 40 on Saturday, is driven to be the first athlete to return from a torn Achilles tendon in less than four months.
“I’m old,” Rodgers said. “I didn’t feel like I had the luxury to think about next year. I wanted to come back this year and play.”
“My thing is what’s the worst that can happen?” Rodgers added. “Something unfortunate again and then you just slow the rehab down.”
There has been nothing slow about Rodgers’ rehab.
He was designated to return to practice on Wednesday, opening up the 21-day window for the Jets to activate him. It was a week sooner than even he first expected. Rodgers said everything “has accelerated consistently” to get him to this point.
After doing individual drills and 7-on-7 work with his teammates at the end of practice Wednesday, Rodgers didn’t participate Thursday. That was the plan.
Rodgers said he would “push it” next week to see where he is whether he can return earlier than Dec. 24 when the Jets host the Commanders. He ruled himself out Sunday’s game against the Falcons, but he left the rest of the month open.
“I need to see how I respond first in back-to-back practice days,” Rodgers said. “This Sunday is out of the question. But I’m going to push it next week, see how I’m feeling after Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, how I respond.
“For a lot of the season I was really thinking the 14-week mark was legitimate to me feeling really, really good and that was the Washington Christmas Eve.”
Rodgers was presented with a scenario of the Jets being 6-8 with a slim chance of making the playoffs going into the Washington game. What then?
“It’ll be an interesting conversation for sure at that point,” he said.
Rodgers has to be cleared for contact to do all the things he wants to do. As of now, he can throw, drop back and move a little in a small area. Rodgers has to make sure he can move comfortably around in the pocket in a live, 11-on-11 situation and be able to protect himself.
“It feels great to be on the practice field but I’m not anywhere near ready to play,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers absolutely expects that to change quickly.
“It was always the goal to come back from Sept. 12 forward,” Rodgers said.
The Jets are glad to see Rodgers back and doing so well physically. They marvel at what he’s doing and appreciate how he’s helping the offensive players and current starting quarterback Tim Boyle get ready for Sunday’s game.
“It’s good to have him back and hear him talk a little bit and to have him around the guys,” Breece Hall said.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said, “Anytime a guy like Aaron Rodgers is around it’s going to help everyone.”
It would help the Jets more if Rodgers were on the field, running the offense. He said he would be disappointed if the season ended without him returning to play.
“For sure,” Rodgers said. “The whole thing has been a really difficult learning experience. I’m proud of the work I’ve put in, but it’ll be disappointing if we weren’t alive and I wasn’t able to come back.”