Jets QB Aaron Rodgers will return to practice on Wednesday in a limited capacity, according to HC Robert Saleh, which opens the 21-day practice window.
"This isn't so much getting ready to play as much as it is a progression in his rehab," HC Robert Saleh said. "For Aaron, what he'll be doing in practice is no different than what he'd be doing on [a side field] with regard to certain drill and individual. Instead of throwing with staff members, he'll be throwing to teammates. There's no added risk to it. There are certain things that he's been cleared for that we'll allow him to do."
Rodgers, who was traded to the Jets in late April after 18 seasons with the Packers, ruptured his left Achilles tendon four snaps into the season opener against the Bills at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 11. He was sacked by Buffalo pass rusher Leonard Floyd. Rodgers initially stood up before he fell back to the turf.
The four-time NFL MVP underwent surgery on Sept. 14. Rodgers then resurfaced at MetLife Stadium for the Week 4 "Sunday Night Football" matchup against the Chiefs where he was on crutches. Two weeks later when the Jets hosted the Eagles, he was gently playing catch with teammates. Then before the game against the Chargers in Week 9 he took some mini-dropbacks throwing the ball.
"This entire time I've said what I'd like to do rehab-wise," Rodgers said. "Neal, my doctor Neal ElAttrache, did kind of a newer, innovative surgery. I asked him if we could push it, if we could push it beyond the normal protocols. I've just wanted to do things quicker, smart, but quicker. It's just about being smart with the rehab and pushing it as much as I can and then backing off on the days that it doesn't feel good."
Recently, there have been multiple reports of a potential mid-December return. While Rodgers never spoke about a specific return date, the Green & White have until Dec. 20 to activate him. If the Jets use the entire practice window before elevating him, Rodgers' first game back could be Week 16 at MetLife Stadium against the Commanders on Christmas Eve.
"A lot of guys coming off [injured reserve], they're not ready to play football," Saleh said. "There's still a little bit of health concern there, so you use these 21-day windows to see where they're at. We're still far away from that. Like I said, the mindset from this is more about the progression in his rehab. He's been cleared for functional football activities, not been cleared to fully play football."
A Packer from 2005-22, Rodgers is one of the most prolific passers in NFL history. The four-time first-team All-Pro and 10-time Pro Bowler is No. 1 in NFL history with a TD-to-INT ratio of 4.52 (475 to 105) and No. 2 in passer rating (103.6). He would rejoin an offense led by offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who was Green Bay's OC from 2019-21. Rodgers was named the league's MVP in consecutive seasons – 2020 and '21 – with Hackett as Rodgers averaged 4,139 passing yards in that span. He totaled 111 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in 48 games and had his two best completion percentage seasons of his career in 2020 (70.7%) and '21 (68.9%).
In addition to Rodgers, the Jets opened the practice window for special teams captain Justin Hardee and OL Wes Schweitzer.
Hardee (6-1, 200) hurt his hamstring Week 5 at Denver and was placed on injured reserve Oct. 14. The Pro Bowl gunner took 115 snaps on special teams for the Jets this season over the first five games. Hardee, one of the Green & White's captains, has 1 special teams tackle on the season. Since he signed with the Jets in 2021, Hardee ranks No. 4 in the NFL with 838 special teams snaps and No. 5 with 27 tackles.
Schweitzer (6-4, 300) sustained a calf injury in Week 8 against the Giants and was placed on injured reserve Oct. 31. He played in five games this season for the Green & White (1 start) and took 81 snaps on offense. Schweitzer, who signed with the Green & White in the offseason, started 6 games for the Commanders last season and has started 60 of the 80 games he's played in over his six NFL seasons. He's taken snaps at every position since he was drafted by the Falcons in the sixth round in 2017, but the San Jose product has predominantly played left and right guard.