FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – With the 21-day practice window closing soon, New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to amaze coaches and teammates with his progress from Achilles surgery.
On Friday, Rodgers made some plays as a scout team defenseman and made a jump interception as a fullback — a play that left many of his teammates buzzing afterward.
“It seems natural to me,” coach Robert Saleh said with a smile. “It’s unbelievable.”
The Jets have until Wednesday to decide whether to activate Rodgers or leave him on injured reserve for the rest of the season. A return this season seems unlikely, considering that the surgery he underwent was only three months ago, but the team has not ruled anything out.
Rodgers, 40, exercises twice a week as part of his rehabilitation program. This week, he was on the field Thursday and Friday. He “pushed it a little bit” Thursday, according to Saleh, who said Rodgers took snaps from under center and made runs from dig to dig. He participated in quarterback drills and a 7-on-7 period, but not 11-on-11. He has not yet been cleared for 11-on-11, which is the next step in his recovery.
“It’s a credit to him, especially in this day and age where a pin can impact a gameweek,” Saleh said. “But this guy is trying so hard to redeem himself. It shows how much he cares, and I have appreciation for him.”
Saleh said they would leave the final decision to Rodgers if it was approved by the Jets’ doctors and his personal physician, Neil Al-Atrash, who resides in Los Angeles. The two medical teams communicated throughout the operation.
For weeks, Rodgers has been targeting December 24 as a possible return date – a home game against the Washington Commanders. He admitted he won’t be 100% until after the season, but said he’d be willing to play if the Jets are in the playoff race.
This is the issue. At 5-8, the Jets have a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN Analytics. They face the first-place Miami Dolphins (9-4) on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, trying to end a 10-game losing streak in divisional road games. Rodgers said it wouldn’t make sense to come back if the team was mathematically eliminated.
“It’s definitely impressive to see him out there and the progress he’s made in such a short time,” said wide receiver Jarrett Wilson, who declined to speculate on whether he expects Rodgers to play. “I mean, he’s special. The mentality, the way he’s handling his treatment — all of a sudden you’re back, ready to play here soon. It’s crazy.”
Cornerback DJ Reed said Rodgers threw his usual zipper, but it was the catch — a jump interception — that caught everyone’s attention.
“It’s kind of scary,” Wilson said.
“I jumped up and caught it with one hand,” Duane Brown said. “He objected to the hunt and catch.”
At first, there wasn’t much reaction on the field.
“Maybe not as much as it should have been, because at that moment, you’re like, ‘Oh, he jumped up and I caught him,'” Brown said. “But now it’s like, what the hell are you doing?”
Since Rodgers ruptured his Achilles tendon in Week 1, the Jets have gone from Zach Wilson to Tim Boyle to Wilson in the starting role. The Jets are 4-6 with Wilson, who is coming off perhaps the best game of his career — 301 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-6 rout of the Houston Texans.
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