Aaron Rodgers is marking off another significant box on his recovery timetable this week, with the presence of No. 12 in a red jersey making the Green Bay Packers the league’s most interesting scout team for a few days.
Just shy of seven weeks after having two metal plates affixed to his collarbone with a number of screws, Rodgers appeared on the practice field Wednesday and his return, whether it is just for practice or in a game in a few weeks, is a boost to the 6-6 Packers as they hope to run the table and get to the playoffs. Rodgers first practiced in the team’s usual light workout on Saturday, his 34th birthday, but now his recovery has entered a new phase with what the team says is a trial return with the scout team that began Wednesday.
“They wear red shirts, so obviously scout-team work is something he will do,” Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “It’s important for him to feel the pass rush and get acclimated. We’ll be in pads on Thursday, so we have to identify exactly what we want to get done there. That’s why we call it trial return. He’s not cut loose to go full in practice where he’s able to do everything. Medical clearance will not be an option until next week.”
Reporters weren’t allowed to shoot video of Rodgers at Wednesday’s afternoon practice, but the quarterback apparently was impressive, although he threw less than Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan, the team’s No. 1 and 2 quarterbacks for the time being.
Rodgers was injured Oct. 15 and underwent surgery four days later. He was placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list Oct. 20, which meant he had to sit out six weeks, and came off that list Friday. The next step, besides standing on the sideline for another game Sunday, is a scan sometime early next week that will reveal whether the bone has healed significantly enough to warrant a return for the final three games of the season against the Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.
Rodgers has not spoken since he returned to the team after surgery, but he was careful to temper expectations then, based on the broken collarbone he suffered in 2013. That one required no surgery and was to his non-throwing shoulder.
“First of all, I want to be healthy; that’s the most important thing,” Rodgers said in early November. “But if we’re healthy in eight weeks [after the injury] and it would make sense to come back, then I’m going to come back.” He added that, just as in 2013, “there won’t be a decision made until that bone is healed, so it’s not even a conversation if it’s not where it needs to be.”
Since then, he has laser-focused on rehab, with McCarthy telling reporters a week ago that “he’s knocking it out of the park. He’s going at it 120 miles an hour.” That was apparent before the Sunday night game on Nov. 26, when he stepped onto the turf at Heinz Field and threw about 40 passes, with the longest covering around 50 yards, in a display that lasted 10 to 15 minutes. The Packers’ Saturday practices are closed to the media, but running back Jamaal Williams was raving about that first performance, which reportedly included Hail Mary passes.
“That boy,” Williams said (via the Green Bay Press-Gazette), “he came back, and he just flicked it. I was like, ‘Dang!’ I was like, ‘Wow! Are you sure that man is injured?’ I was like, ‘That is far! I couldn’t even do that on my good day.’ I mean, he flicked it. I feel like he didn’t even throw it. He just flicked it.”
Rodgers could probably have more success than just about anyone else by merely flicking the ball, but a flick of the wrist won’t work in a game and he also has to be able to take a hit. The Packers need to win out and get some help to make the playoffs, so is it worth the risk to the two-time MVP to have him on the field against the Panthers on Dec. 17?
He most likely would answer an emphatic yes, as he is likely to remind the scout team.
“An extremely competitive guy going out and trying to win every play,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said when asked what he expected to see from the scout team. “With how competitive he is, it’s going to make it fun.”
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