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5 key questions about Aaron Rodgers’ 21-day practice window

Aaron Rodgers

The New York Jets cleared quarterback Aaron Rodgers for practice Wednesday, opening a 21-day practice window only 11 weeks after having surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

Only four plays into his Jets debut in Week 1, Aaron Rodgers went down with what appeared to be a catastrophic injury because it was feared he was lost for the season and maybe even his career.

Then again, maybe not. Aaron Rodgers, who turns 40 on Saturday, has diligently worked his way back to the point where he is well enough for the Jets to allow him back on the practice field.

Still, questions about whether he realistically could make it back onto the field by the end of the season.

Now that he is officially practicing, let’s answer the five key questions about what’s happening with Rodgers at the Jets practice facility in Florham Park, N.J.

1. What is the 21-day practice window?

When a player like Aaron Rodgers is placed on injured reserve during the season, the team can let the player return to practice without him taking up a spot on the 53-man roster.

Related: 20 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL

But once the 21 days expires, the team must make a decision whether the player is healthy enough to activate. If not, he will be lost for the season. The Jets have until Dec. 20 to decide Rodgers’ fate.

Aaron Rodgers
Gary A. Vasquez / USA TODAY Sports

2. What is the earliest date that Aaron Rodgers could return to the field?

All along Aaron Rodgers has targeted Dec. 24 as his return date against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium.

And because the practice window is open until Dec. 20, that Commanders game would be his first possible game since Week 1. So, Rodgers is right on schedule — if he completes his comeback.

3. Does this move mean Aaron Rodgers is coming back this season?

Not necessarily. Opening the practice window is not synonymous with a return to play. There are no guarantees, so Jets fans shouldn’t get their hopes up too much.

Given the nature of the injury and the typical length of the rehab time, it’s more likely that he doesn’t play this season. While opening the practice window suggests he’s close to making an in-season comeback, if anything, his return to practice could serve as a much-needed morale boost for a team that has sorely needed one.

Aaron Rodgers

4. Would Aaron Rodgers’ recovery time be unprecedented?

Yes, completely unprecedented. The normal recovery time for someone who has surgery to fix a complete tear of the Achilles tendon is at least six months.

When then-Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers tore his Achilles tendon during training camp in 2021, he returned to the field for the Rams’ final regular-season game, 174 days after suffering the injury.

If Aaron Rodgers were to come back on Dec. 24, it would be only 104 days since he initially suffered the injury.

5. What impact will the Jets’ playoff chances have on Aaron Rodgers’ decision to return?

Rodgers has said his decision to return to the field will be based on two factors: his health and the Jets’ chances of making the playoffs.

The Jets enter Week 13 at 4-7 and would need to win at least two of the next three games against Atlanta, Houston, and Miami, respectively, to make it worth Rodgers’ while to come back for the final three games.

While Aaron Rodgers’ possible return might inspire the Jets over the next three weeks, there’s a greater likelihood they will fall out of the playoff picture completely.

Even if the Jets are eliminated from the playoff picture, Rodgers might consider returning to the field just to show he can do it. But that might be his lowest priority, and the higher probability is that we won’t see Rodgers playing for the Jets again until 2024.

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