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Jets QB Aaron Rodgers on returning by Week 16: 'Anything's possible'

Aaron Rodgers knows how to keep people on the edge of his seat.

When asked Thursday if he thinks he possibly could return to the field by the New York Jets' Christmas Eve game against the Washington Commanders, Rodgers offered a vague but hopeful answer.

"I think anything's possible," he said, via The Associated Press.

The Jets took the first step toward that end by opening a 21-day practice window for the four-time MVP on Wednesday, which could set the stage for his return to the field this season. Rodgers practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, less than four months after suffering a torn Achilles on the Jets' fourth offensive snap of their Week 1 game versus the Bills. He did not practice Thursday. 

Rodgers, who turns 40 years old Saturday, has been on injured reserve since. The Jets have said they'll lessen his practice load to prevent re-injury, and Rodgers is not yet cleared for contact. Head coach Robert Saleh said there's no additional risk to having Rodgers practice now that he's been green-lit for "functional football activity" by team doctors and his specialist, Neal ElAttrache.

But will the Jets activate him?

If there's a team that could use the holiday cheer, it's the Jets. They carry a 4-7 record into December, preparing to face three playoff-hopeful teams – the Falcons, Texans and Dolphins – before the Washington game in Week 16. Rodgers would need to be activated by Dec. 20 – four days before the Jets face the Commanders.

If they're even further out of contention, it could affect Rodgers' decision. The playoffs look remote at this point, but the Jets have not yet been eliminated from the postseason.

Rodgers acknowledged that it "wouldn't make sense" to return if the Jets were not still in the hunt.

One big reason: Rodgers is attempting to return in what's believed to be record time from an Achilles injury – among all professional athletes. Rodgers underwent a "Speed Bridge" procedure, aimed at shortening the recovery time compared to more traditional methods, which can take months longer.

Rodgers' first practice Wednesday was exactly three months removed from his surgery.

"I don't feel like I'm competing in science when it comes to this rehab," Rodgers said. "I'm competing against conventional rehab protocol. But until someone breaks that protocol and shows you can do it a different way … the impossible stays the impossible."

Rodgers was asked if his return is contingent on head coach Robert Saleh, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and general manager Joe Douglas being guaranteed to return for the 2024 season. Rodgers refused to answer, calling it a "trap question" but said that the Jets have the "recipe for success" with this group. Rodgers praised all three but said their fates were "out of my control."

Rodgers kept Jets fans anxiously waiting for months this offseason on whether he'd be joining their team. They'll have to wait just a bit longer to find out if he'll suit up for them again this season.

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