Aaron Rodgers has taken a key step toward accomplishing what was thought to be the impossible. Just months after suffering a torn Achilles on Sept. 11 and four plays into his tenure with the New York Jets, the franchise officially opened his practice window on Wednesday, head coach Robert Saleh told reporters. Rodgers will be able to practice with the team for 21 days and not count toward the active roster. If those 21 days run out and the Jets do not activate him onto the 53-man roster, he will revert to injured reserve for the rest of the season.
While announcing that Rodgers' practice window has opened up, Saleh did note that this doesn't necessarily mean that he will practice fully with the team. Instead, this is more about taking another step in his rehab.
"This isn't so much getting ready to play as much as it is a progression in his rehab," Saleh said. "For Aaron, what he will be doing in practice is no different than what he'd be doing on field three as you guys all watch with regards to certain drills and individual [workouts]. Instead of throwing with staff members, he's throwing with teammates, so there's no added risk to it. There's certain things that he's been cleared for that we're going to allow him to do."
When asked if the team expects to activate him before his 21 days run out, Saleh said it's too early in the process to try and see if that will come to fruition.
"We're not there yet," Saleh said. "Like a lot of guys coming off [injured reserve], they're usually not ready to play football. There's still a little bit of a health concern there and so you use these 21-day windows to see where they're at. We're still far away from that, but like I said, the mindset for this is more of a progression in his rehab. Like I said, he's been cleared for functional football activity. He's not cleared to fully play football."
A Rodgers return has been building for the past few weeks. The four-time NFL MVP had been seen throwing pregame and moving around with no noticeable limp in recent weeks. He had also been , specifically New York's Christmas Eve matchup with the Washington Commanders.
"I think it's sooner than everybody did," Saleh said with a smirk when asked if he's surprised Rodgers is at this stage in his recovery already. "I think it's a credit to him. I know we're getting caught up in trying to create a narrative around it, but the true narrative is he's old school in the sense that he is driven. Is there motivation to be the first to ever do it? Sure. That's okay. That's his why."
After starting the year 4-3, the Jets have stumbled in recent weeks, losing four straight. Entering Week 13, they are 4-7 and on the outside looking in on the playoffs. Rodgers did note in his latest appearance onthat part of the calculus about coming back will be where the Jets are in the standings.
"I think it's always been, first, am I healthy?" Rodgers told McAfee on Tuesday. "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 to the level that I feel like I'm capable of playing? The first part of it is my health. Can I protect myself? Can I move around the way I want to move around? There's a natural progression here to the rehab. That's gonna involve actually getting back onto the field to start doing some things that are more football-related."
Rodgers was acquired by the Jets this offseason in a blockbuster trade with the Green Bay Packers.