McAfee wonders if Rodgers will return, analyzes throwing motion (2:14)Pat McAfee discusses the likelihood of Aaron Rodgers returning to the Jets at any point this season. (2:14)
On Friday, Rodgers took some reps as a fill-in on the scout-team defense and made a leaping interception as a linebacker -- a play that left many teammates buzzing afterward.
"He looks normal to me," coach Robert Saleh said, smiling. "It's unbelievable."
The Jets have until Wednesday to decide whether to activate Rodgers or leave him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. A return this season seems unlikely, considering his surgery was only three months ago, but the team hasn't ruled out anything.
Rodgers, 40, has been practicing twice a week as part of his rehab 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, ran bootlegs and jogged from drill to drill. He participated in quarterback drills and a 7-on-7 period, but not 11-on-11. He has yet to be 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 hangnail can affect a game week," Saleh said. "But this dude is grinding to try to get himself back. It just shows how much he cares, and I have an appreciation for him."
Saleh has said they will leave the final decision up to Rodgers -- if he's cleared by the Jets' doctors and his personal doctor, Los Angeles-based Neal ElAttrache. The two medical teams have been communicating throughout the process.
For several weeks, Rodgers has been targeting Dec. 24 as a potential return date -- a home game against the Washington Commanders. He has acknowledged that he won't be 100 percent until after the season but has said he'd be willing to play if the Jets are in the playoff race.
That's 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 has said it wouldn't "make a ton of sense" to return if the team is mathematically eliminated.
"It's definitely impressive seeing him out there and the progress he's made in such a short time," said wide receiver Garrett Wilson, who declined to speculate on whether he expects Rodgers to play. "I mean, he's special. The mindset, the way he goes about his treatment -- all of a sudden, you find yourself back, ready to play here pretty soon. It's crazy."
Cornerback D.J. Reed said Rodgers is throwing with his usual zip, but it was a catch -- the leaping interception -- that caught everyone's attention.
"It's kind of scary," Wilson said.
"Jumped up and caught it with one hand," tackle Duane Brown said. "He contested a catch and picked it off."
Initially, there wasn't much reaction on the field.
"Probably not as much as there should've been because, in the moment, you're like, 'Oh, he jumped up and caught it,'" Brown said. "But now it's like, 'What the f--- are you doing?'"
Since Rodgers' Achilles rupture in Week 1, the Jets have gone from Zach Wilson to Tim Boyle and back 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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