Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been cleared to return to practice with the New York Jets, opening his 21-day window to potentially make a remarkable comeback just 11 weeks after undergoing surgery on his torn Achilles tendon.
Rodgers "Looked Great" in Return to Practice After Severe Injury
Rodgers suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during the Jets’ loss to the New England Patriots on October 30. The injury was expected to sideline Rodgers for the remainder of the 2023 season.
However, Rodgers has made rapid progress in his rehabilitation and was medically cleared this week to resume practicing with the team. According to backup QB Tim Boyle, Rodgers "didn’t miss a beat" and brought "wisdom and energy" in his first practice session back.
Several videos emerged on social media showing Rodgers moving well and throwing passes with velocity during the workout. Teammates and coaches alike were amazed by how sharp Rodgers looked so soon after such a devastating injury.
"He had great energy, his arm looks live and he moved around pretty good," said Jets head coach Robert Saleh. "Now it’s just a matter of getting caught up conditioning-wise and mentally with the installs."
Rodgers Reportedly Pushing Hard to Return Ahead of Playoffs
As unlikely as it seems, there is reportedly growing belief that Rodgers could return before the end of the regular season.
The Jets have battled adversity without their superstar quarterback, losing five of six games since he went down. But at 6-5 they remain in playoff contention. Rodgers has reportedly been adamant behind the scenes about getting back on the field.
|New England Patriots
Rodgers now has three weeks to prove to the team that he’s fit to return for game action. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggests Week 16 (December 24) as the target. That would give Rodgers two games to shake off the rust before the playoffs.
Jets GM Joe Douglas refused to rule out Rodgers returning this season, though he cautioned about the complexity of his rehab. Head coach Saleh was also hesitant to put expectations on Rodgers.
"You can’t expect someone to come back in three months from that type of injury. He’s got a ways to go from a healing standpoint…it’s unrealistic to think he’d play this season," said Saleh.
Veteran Journeyman QB Tim Boyle Stepping Up in Relief
With Rodgers sidelined, the pressure fell onto the shoulders of career backup Tim Boyle. The 28-year-old Boyle had just three career starts coming into this season since going undrafted in 2018.
Boyle had an up-and-down stint as the starter before injuring his ribs in the loss to the Lions. But he earned praise from coaches and teammates for guiding the Jets through adversity.
"Tim held it down for us. He took some shots but bounced back up. You have to tip your hat to him," said wide receiver Garrett Wilson.
The Jets reinforced their QB depth by signing 10-year veteran Josh Johnson. Boyle is expected back from his rib injury soon, giving New York options under center.
There remains optimism that Rodgers could return and lead this team back to the postseason. But if not, Boyle and Johnson have shown they can manage the offense.
Concerns About Rodgers Disrupting Team Chemistry
While Rodgers would provide an obvious talent boost, there are fair questions about how his return could impact team chemistry.
The Jets have battled through injuries and adversity to remain alive in the playoff race. Rodgers returning after a three-month absence to take over could disrupt the momentum that’s been building.
Some Jets players have reportedly expressed some private concerns about Rodgers swooping in to save the day. Would Rodgers’ return undermine what Boyle and the rest of the roster have worked for?
"It’s only natural for guys to feel that way. This team has been through the mud without [Rodgers]. But his talent is needed if we wanna make noise in January," an anonymous Jets veteran told the New York Daily News.
Head coach Saleh downplayed any chemistry concerns. He said Rodgers has remained in constant communication with coaches and teammates throughout his rehab.
But there’s no doubt it would require a period of adjustment if Rodgers does retake the reins Week 16 with the season on the line.
The Playoff Push Continues Against NFC South Rivals
The Jets playoff hopes remain alive at 6-5. They currently sit in 10th place in the AFC but are just one game back of a Wild Card spot.
They now enter a favorable stretch of their schedule with consecutive games against the NFC South:
- Week 13 at Minnesota Vikings (9-2) – Loss 27-22
- Week 14 vs Detroit Lions (4-7) – Win 31-23
- Week 15 at Buffalo Bills (8-3)
- Week 16 vs Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)
- Week 17 at Seattle Seahawks (6-5)
The Lions and Jaguars games are certainly winnable. But to make the postseason, the Jets will likely need to steal a game against either the Bills, Vikings or Seahawks.
Rodgers potentially returning for those divisional games could provide the boost needed. There’s cautious optimism he could be back under center by Christmas Eve.
It would be an incredible story if Rodgers can return from a torn Achilles to lead this Jets team back to playoff contention. His fate likely determines whether New York plays meaningful January football for the first time since 2011.
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