FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Aaron Rodgers was back on the field Wednesday, throwing the football and working with his teammates just 11 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon.
It’s remarkable how quickly Rodgers, who turns 40 on Saturday, has advanced in his rehab that there’s even a possibility that he can return this season.
The doctors cleared Rodgers to resume football activities and the Jets opened the 21-day window for him to be activated from injured reserve. Robert Saleh said it’s not a given that Rodgers will play in an NFL game by the end of the calendar year, but this was the next step in his rehab.
“He’s been cleared for functional football activity,” Saleh said. “He’s not cleared to fully play football. It’s part of his rehab progression.”
The Jets were stretching and warming up when Rodgers emerged from the team’s facility. He was on a far field with the Jets’ other three quarterbacks throwing to receivers for the portion of practice that was open to the media. Rodgers also did some light jogging as they moved to different parts of the field.
At the end of practice, Rodgers ran the Jets “Flight School,” which is for players who don’t get that many reps in practice or games.
One date that he been rumored for a potential Rodgers’ return is Dec. 24 against Washington. Saleh said it’s too soon to know if Rodgers could play then or at all.
“We’re not there yet,” Saleh said. “We’re so far away from that. The mindset of this is more of a progression in his rehab.
“If we get to that 21-day window and he’s feeling great, we’ll have that discussion then.”
Saleh said there was a technicality in the IR designations that enabled the Jets to open Rodgers’ window. Otherwise he would have been doing the same things on a side field, only instead of throwing to teammates, it would be to staff members and strength and conditioning coaches.
“We just have that ability, that luxury and we thought it would be good for him,” Saleh said.
Rodgers tore his Achilles four offensive snaps into the Jets’ season on Sept. 11. He had surgery two days later. Orthopedist Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed a SpeedBridge repair.
Rodgers had been rehabbing in Southern California, but he always planned to rejoin the Jets full-time after Thanksgiving and continue his rehab at their facility while also working toward a return. He was officially listed as limited in practice Wednesday.
During his weekly segment on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Tuesday, Rodgers said he was “excited” for what was next and doing individual drills and “some more real football things” was next for him.
“Kind of the next step is to see what my lateral movement is like and then after going through some of these more football related moves, how do I respond?” Rodgers said. “How does my leg respond to that? How does my Achilles, my foot, my heel, my calf, how does all that respond?”
Saleh acknowledged that some of Rodgers’ drive to play again this season is to make a history, and he’s fine with that. According to Saleh, everyone in the Jets organization is “on the same page with regards to what the next steps are.”
Saleh fully expects Rodgers will play for the Jets in 2024 and said he wouldn’t do anything to risk re-injuring himself to play in a few potentially meaningless games this season.
“I promise Aaron is not going to do anything that puts himself in harm’s way,” Saleh said. “If he’s not healthy to play, Aaron is very very smart, that’s not something he’s going to put himself at risk for.”
Rodgers said where the Jets are in the standings will be a determining factor in if he plays. They are 4-7 and will try to snap a four-game losing streak Sunday when they host the Falcons. Saleh said they will deal with that if and when Rodgers is fully cleared for contact.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Saleh said. “I’m not even thinking about 21 days from now. I’m just thinking Atlanta. If that bridge is crossed, that will be an organizational decision with him obviously being a part of it.”