The Green Bay Packers activated Aaron Rodgers off injured reserve on Saturday and the quarterback practiced for the first time since breaking his collarbone on Oct. 15.
Rodgers, who also turned 34 on Saturday, cannot play for two more weeks, but could be in line to play at the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 17.
It is still uncertain how close Rodgers is to playing. Saturday’s practice was closed to reporters, but he has been throwing for at least a week. He is expected to steadily increase his workload over the next two weeks by do individual drills and running the scout team.
The Packers (5-6) are not expected to play Rodgers unless he is completely healed and the team is in playoff position. Green Bay enters Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two games behind the Atlanta Falcons (7-4) for the second wild card spot in the NFC. The Panthers (8-3) are currently in the first wild card spot.
The Packers are also behind the Seattle Seahawks (7-4), Detroit Lions (6-5) and Dallas Cowboys (6-6).
Each team can designate two players to return from IR each season. The Packers previously used their other one on offensive lineman Jason Spriggs, who returned to play last week after suffering a hamstring injury in the season opener.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday that Rodgers returning to practice would provide a morale boost for the team.
“I think it’s a big deal when you see your leader out there,” McCarthy said. “Yeah, definitely. The guys have been able to watch him work here the last couple weeks. He’s been going through the fundamental part of it. I think you also have to be in tune with the trial return mode.
“But, yeah, that’d be great to have him out there.”
Backup Brett Hundley is 1-5 in six starts since Rodgers’ injury. He has completed 61.4 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.