GREEN BAY – The way Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was talking Wednesday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is coming back if the Packers are still in the playoff race.
Matthews acknowledged that Rodgers would have to be cleared medically to play, but he said the way Rodgers has been working in his rehab sessions — which Matthews witnessed firsthand while rehabbing his groin over the past week — the quarterback looks like he’s ready to play.
“This past week, being a part of that rehab group, to watch Aaron, what he’s been doing in there, I think we probably should have kept him off IR,” Matthews said Wednesday. “The way he’s coming along, some of the balls he’s throwing, accuracy-wise, everything a quarterback has to do, is pretty remarkable.
“So, it would be really neat to see him out there, but unfortunately, he’ll have to wait two weeks prior to coming back.”
Under the rules of injured reserve, Rodgers must sit out a minimum of eight games before being eligible to be activated to the 53-man roster. After six weeks, however, he can begin practicing.
The six-week mark begins Friday. The Packers don’t practice Friday, but they do Saturday. However, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to practice him then since it’s a short practice and most of it needs to be devoted to honing the game plan for the Tampa Bay game Sunday.
Anyone who got to Heinz Field early Sunday night got a chance to see Rodgers throwing 40-yard passes prior to the Packers' 31-28 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the first time he had been seen in public throwing passes.
If Rodgers is cleared to practice next week, coach Mike McCarthy probably would give him scout-team reps so that Brett Hundley could continue to work with the No. 1 offense in preparation for the Cleveland game Dec. 10.
If anyone on the team knows what Rodgers’ mindset is, it’s probably Matthews. The two have been teammates since 2009 and have spent time together during the offseason filming commercials.
Matthews said it’s obvious that the 5-6 Packers need to win their final five games in order to have a shot at the playoffs and that if they lose against either the Buccaneers or the Browns, it’s unlikely Rodgers would come back this season.
“We have to win these next five,” Matthews said. “I mean, that’s the reality of it. I don’t have any ‘relax’ one-liners or ‘run the table’ or whatever. I’ll leave that up to Aaron. But that’s the reality of it. We have to get it done.
“Part of that is if you’re looking at the big picture, I know no game is bigger than the next one. But we have to win these next two and when Aaron’s back at the helm, we have a pretty good squad. That’s the reality of it.
“So, hopefully we get to see him because that means we’re winning ballgames.”