GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers' birthday was cause for celebration on Saturday -- not because the Green Bay Packers quarterback turned 34, but because he practiced for the first time since breaking his collarbone on Oct. 15.
Rodgers still can't play for at least two more weeks because of the injured reserve rules, but the Packers activated him off injured reserve Saturday. It opens the door for him to play on Dec. 17 at Carolina.
If he doesn't return vs. the Panthers, Rodgers would have to be activated the following week against the Vikings or he would not be able to play again this season.
The practice was closed to reporters, so it's unclear how much Rodgers did. He has, however, been throwing for at least a week; he did so publicly last Sunday in Pittsburgh for the first time since his Oct. 19 surgery. Most of Rodgers' work for the first two weeks of practice before he can play was expected to be during the individual drills and running the scout team.
The Packers used their second and final "designated to return" spot on Rodgers. They used the first on offensive lineman Jason Spriggs, who suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1. Spriggs made his first start at right tackle last Sunday against the Steelers.
Players who are designated to return can practice six weeks after they were placed on injured reserve and can play two weeks after that.
Rodgers said in his only extended session with reporters since his surgery that he planned to play again if his right clavicle was completely healed. The Packers, however, probably wouldn't put Rodgers on the field unless they were competing for a playoff spot.
The Packers (5-6) would probably need to beat Tampa Bay at home Sunday and win at Cleveland the following week for that to be the case.
"He's doing well," Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said this week. "You saw him throwing out there in Pittsburgh. He's doing well. He's getting healthy, and he's following right along in rehab. He's probably ahead of the curve a little bit, but there's really not anything to talk about until there's something to talk about."