With the Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the all-world quarterback was medically cleared from his collarbone injury on Tuesday night by team Dr. Pat McKenzie. On Wednesday, he'll be prepping for his first game in eight weeks.
Coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers would get some extra individual work in with receivers to get back on the same page after missing two months, but the coach didn't sound surprised the quarterback returned at the earliest possible moment.
"I kept an open mind to it, but I think it really speaks to Aaron with just with what he's done through the rehab phase..." McCarthy said. "He was able to clear each hurdle earlier than the norm. His rehab process was very fluid, very clean and it has put him in this position today to get ready for Carolina."
McCarthy added that he doesn't expect Rodgers to adjust his style of play, even after the injury: "I think you have to play your game," he said.
The coach didn't sound concerned Rodgers might need a knocking-off-the-dust period to get back into the swing of things -- much like his comeback in 2013.
"There's a process, there's a lot of conversation," McCarthy said when asked how badly Rodgers wanted to return. "Aaron's super, super competitive. At the end of the day, he's been around the block a few times. I mean, he's played through injuries time and time again. But every injury is different -- this is, obviously, probably the biggest one we've had to deal with. So they laid out the gauntlet of what needed to be done, [and] he ran through it."
Rodgers' return brings a swell of optimism that the Packers (7-6) could run the table in hopes of swiping a playoff spot. Even with the two-time NFL MVP back in the lineup, McCarthy said there is no false sense of confidence heading into Sunday's game against the 9-4 Panthers.
"I think our football team has done an excellent job finding different ways to win," he said. "We're not going to go to Carolina with a bunch of false confidence. We understand the impact Aaron Rodgers makes for our football team -- the kind of impact he would make for anybody's football team. He's a great player. He's an impact player. But we're in a position that we're in -- we're 7-6, and we clearly understand what's on the line here."
McCarthy pointed to Rodgers' mental fortitude in explaining how a player could jump right into a playoff hunt and succeed after eight weeks on the shelf.
"I think it's probably, in my opinion, his greatest asset, his mental toughness," he said. "You like to say 'old school,' you refer to how things were probably in the past in this league. But this guy could have played mentally in any generation in the National Football League. So, that's a big part of why he's ready today."
Rodgers is ready and able to toss the Packers back on his shoulder for another December run.