New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, attempting to make an unprecedentedly quick return from Achilles surgery, said Tuesday that he's "obviously, ahead of schedule" but cautioned that he still has many hurdles to clear before he'll be back on the field.
Rodgers, in his weekly spot on "The Pat McAfee Show," said it "makes absolutely no sense" to have a specific timetable for return. He left no doubt, however, that he wants to play again this season. Before that can happen, he said, he must meet specific markers in his recovery, followed by "practicing and everybody signing off on it. Hopefully, we get to have those conversations."
The four-time MVP surprised many by walking without crutches and throwing for five minutes before Sunday's game at MetLife Stadium. His swift rate of recovery, coupled with the Jets' two-game winning streak, has fueled speculation about a late-season return. At 3-3, the Jets could be playing meaningful games down the stretch, providing motivation for Rodgers.
"You have to hit a bunch of different things and be found a certain way, but that's the goal," he said.
Speaking from his rehab facility in the Los Angeles area, Rodgers said his next goal is jogging. From there, it's explosive movements, followed by practice and pregame warmups. He said he's working in the gym on weight transfer from side to side and movement in a small area, noting that his recovery should be "a little easier" because it's his left foot, not his right -- his push-off leg when throwing.
"I'm just not quite walking perfectly normal, but throwing feels great," he said.
Rodgers, who injured his left Achilles on the fourth play of the season, had surgery Sept. 13 -- almost five weeks ago. Medical experts say it takes three months for the Achilles tendon to heal properly, at which time the athlete can begin aggressive rehab. That usually takes another few months. The concern, experts say, is that overworking the repaired Achilles can cause permanent stretching. If Rodgers plays this season, it would be less than four months from surgery to return.
"It's not just going to be boom, boom, boom, boom, boom," he said. "There are critical markers that I have to hit as far as single-leg strength and being able to do heel raises and being able to do explosive movements. And these are all progressions that take time."
Jets coach Robert Saleh said he's not ruling anything out.
"Aaron is definitely one of those individuals that is fueled by doubt," Saleh said Monday. "If you doubt him, it only makes him stronger because he has this, 'Oh, you're telling me I can't do something? Then I am going to show you I can.' He's going to prove you wrong."
Rodgers said that he was undecided about flying to New Jersey last weekend for the game because he didn't want to skip rehab days but that he was urged by Saleh, who told him, "'Need you out here, buddy.'"
Two hours before kickoff, Rodgers walked on the field and threw to a staff member, providing video that went viral instantly. He said he wore specially designed sneakers that included an insert to support his surgically repaired Achilles.
He watched from the sideline -- unusual for an injured player because of safety concerns -- and wore a headset during the game. He communicated with the offensive coaches during the Jets' 20-14 upset of the Philadelphia Eagles, saying he was "the voice of calm and reason."
Mostly, he felt normal, being around the team and the action.
"To be on the field without crutches, to be able to go on the sidelines, to be on the headset, it made me feel like I wasn't so separated from the team," he said. "So, I'm really thankful for that.
"That was a special moment for me to be able to feel a little bit more normal in five weeks. It's been really, really tough, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually."