Ahead of the Green Bay Packers’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday at Heinz Field, Aaron Rodgers was seen taking part in pre-game practice with the rest of his teammates. While Rodgers’ participation was limited to throwing a small number of passes – some of which were in excess of forty or fifty yards – it’s nevertheless exciting to see the veteran quarterback’s recovering normally from that painful collarbone injury suffered against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6, for which he was placed on IR.
In fact, that pre-game warmup was the first time Rodgers practiced since suffering the injury—a good sign, according to Ian Rapoport:
For the #Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers, many factors will go into him actually playing — including the scan, the team’s standing. Today, he practiced a little and obviously not with the first-team. It merely means he hasn’t had any setbacks. He’s on schedule
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 2, 2017
It’s possible that the Packers are trying to preemptively reacclimate him to the on-field environment before he makes his return to full participation, though Rodgers wouldn’t be able to play until after the Packers play both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cleveland Browns. (Any players placed on injured reserve become ineligible to play for a minimum of eight weeks.) Packers head coach Mike McCarthy referred to Rodgers’ limited practice as a “trial return,” and remains as optimistic as ever that his starting quarterback will return in two weeks to close out the season.
However, assuming Rodgers returns as scheduled, Green Bay’s final three games still won’t be a walk in the park: Weeks 15, 16, and 17 see the Packers facing the 8-3 Carolina Panthers, 9-2 Minnesota Vikings, and 6-5 Detroit Lions. Two of those matchups are road games against NFC wild card hopefuls, determined to secure their spots in the playoffs, while two of them are against tough division opponents. Rodgers won’t magically be one-hundred percent upon his return to play, either.
Moreover, it’s entirely possible that it won’t matter whether Rodgers returns or not in Week 15. For Green Bay’s playoff hopes to remain alive, the Packers absolutely need to beat the Bucs and Browns. Both teams have struggled mightily this season (needless to say, in Cleveland’s case), but even with the “advantage,” the Packers can’t afford to take anything for granted. Remember: any given Sunday.
Still, that the 5-6 Packers still have a (slim) chance to steal a wild card spot at this point in the season, and with backup quarterback Brett Hundley at the wheel, is nothing if not incredible. Much like last season, Green Bay will have to “run the table” to extend their season, hopefully with a healthy Aaron Rodgers guiding them during the final stretch.
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