It was all like something out of some sort of feel-good sports movie.
Aaron Rodgers ditched the crutches and walking boot, strolled onto the field during pregame warmups Sunday and the New York Jets quarterback started throwing passes again. Less than five weeks after tearing his left Achilles tendon.
His teammates and coaches got a kick out of it, the fans watching videos on social media couldn’t believe what they were seeing and even reporters watching up in the press box were dumbfounded.
“It is unbelievable,” said Zach Wilson, who has started the Jets’ past five games in Rodgers’ absence. “That dude’s demeanor, the way he attacks everything is special, so I’m not surprised at all.”
The 39-year-old Rodgers said during his weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Tuesday he was “obviously, ahead of schedule” and “felt great” while throwing and had “just a little bit of a limp.”
He added that it was “a special moment” for him to toss around the football again — even putting weight on the left foot, which was in a shoe that included a lift to elevate his heel.
“It just felt a little bit more normal,” Rodgers said, “in a time that has been the abnormal, anything I’ve tried to do.”
That includes his rehabilitation process. Dr. Neal ElAttrache reportedly used a “speed bridge” procedure to repair Rodgers’ Achilles tendon with the goal of expediting the recovery. And Rodgers has already blown away the traditional timetables associated with that type of injury, which usually sidelines players for at least six to nine months.
“From my understanding,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday, “him walking around is crazy.”
That has some speculating as to whether Rodgers could not only return at some point this season, but sooner rather than later.
“Let’s just cool our jets a little bit,” Rodgers said with a smile.
He acknowledged that’s the goal, of course, but he’s far from being able to make such a bold declaration.
“I’m not going to put a timetable on it, specifically,” Rodgers said. “That makes absolutely no sense. Anybody that does doesn’t realize that there’s a lot of things that have to happen to get to that point. But it’s going to have to be jogging, then explosive movements and then practicing and then everybody signing off on it.
“Hopefully we get to have those conversations.”
The mere possibility, no matter how realistic or far-fetched, has provided some entertaining fodder for sports talk TV and radio.
But it has also done something indisputable. And it has happened in the locker room among the teammates Rodgers felt as though he let down just four snaps into his debut with the Jets on Sept. 11.
His recovery has provided inspiration for a team that’s 3-3 heading into its bye week after beating the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday.
Rodgers became a leader for the Jets the moment he was traded from Green Bay in April and walked through the doors of the facility. Players raved about his approach to the game, the way he breaks things down on both sides of the football and his natural leadership.
“His superpower is his presence,” Saleh said. “Him being around this building, being around his teammates, being around the locker room, his positive attitude, his thoughts of manifestation and all of that, I think it’s powerful. So obviously, as a coach, I selfishly want him here every single day, I want him in every meeting, I want him on the practice field, I want him on the sideline, I want him in the locker room, selfishly, because he is an unbelievable human.
“Outside of scheme and playing ability, the intangibles that he brings to his teammates and the fuel I think his teammates will give to him is priceless. You just can’t quantify it, you can’t put a price on it.”
Saleh pointed out that many players on injured reserve such as Rodgers usually are out of view until they return. While Rodgers continues to work on his recovery in Southern California, he has twice joined the team for games.
Against Kansas City two weeks ago, Rodgers was still on crutches and watched from a suite. On Sunday, he was on the sideline the entire game, wearing a headset and providing some insight throughout. That came after Rodgers waffled on whether he should make the trip and skip a couple of full days of rehab.
“Need you out here, buddy,” Rodgers said Saleh told him.
So he showed up. And then he threw on the field.
It was a sight no one — other than maybe Rodgers — could have envisioned five weeks earlier when the quarterback went down on the turf, unable to walk on his own.
“It’s been really, really tough,” Rodgers said. “Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.”
Capped by a comeback shaping up to be perhaps like none other.
“He’s already a Hall of Fame quarterback and he’s somebody that always seems to thrive when he’s doubted,” tight end Tyler Conklin said. “It’s going to be exciting to just see him finish writing his story because he loves proving people wrong and I think he thrives in those situations.”
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