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Jets begin Aaron Rodgers’s 21-day practice window in next step in recovery from torn Achilles’

Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles’ four snaps into his debut with the Jets on Sept. 11 and had surgery two days later.Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

Aaron Rodgers’s improbable comeback from a torn Achilles’ tendon has taken the next step.

The New York Jets opened the 21-day practice window for the quarterback on Wednesday — exactly 11 weeks after he had surgery — with Rodgers cleared for some football activities.

Coach Robert Saleh said the four-time NFL MVP, who turns 40 on Saturday, will be limited at practice — as he was listed on the team’s injury report — and is not cleared for contact. Saleh said there’s no added risk in taking this step, emphasizing it’s not necessarily a signal that Rodgers will play again this season as much as it is the next part of the rehabilitation process.

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“For Aaron, what he will be doing in practice is no different than what he’d be doing on the field, with regards to certain drills and individual [drills],” Saleh said. “Instead of throwing with staff members, he’s throwing with teammates.”

At the end of the 21-day period, the Jets will have to make a decision whether to activate him or he’ll spend the rest of this season on injured reserve. That period will expire on Dec. 20, which is four days before the Jets’ home game against the Commanders.

“We’re not there yet,” Saleh said. “A lot of guys coming off [IR] are usually not ready to play football. There’s usually still a little bit of a health concern there. So you use these 21-day windows to see where they’re at.

“We’re so far away from that. But the mind-set for this is more of a progression in his rehab. He’s been cleared for functional football activity. He’s not cleared to fully play football.”

During the early portion of practice open to reporters, Rodgers walked onto the field in his red No. 8 noncontact jersey during warm-ups and embraced left tackle Mekhi Becton in the trainers’ area. Rodgers found his way to the quarterbacks group during individual drills, tossed some short passes, and took a few dropbacks.

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Rodgers tore his Achilles’ four snaps into his debut with the Jets on Sept. 11 and had surgery two days later. The operation included a “speed bridge” procedure, which helps expedite the healing process. Rodgers is still aiming to make an unprecedented quick return to the field.

“I think it’s sooner than anybody [anticipated],” Saleh said. “I think it’s a credit to him. I know we’re getting caught up in trying to create a narrative around him, but the true narrative is he’s old-school in the sense he is driven. Is there motivation to be the first to ever do it? Sure, but that’s OK. That’s his ‘why’ — that’s why he’s [doing it]. It’s a mentality that I think young guys should be able to grab. He loves this organization, he wants to be with his teammates, he wants to be here.”

The Jets (4-7) have lost four in a row and host the NFC South-leading Falcons on Sunday. Tim Boyle will make his second start in a row at quarterback in place of the benched Zach Wilson, who took over when Rodgers went down.

Flacco in line to start?

Joe Flacco took the first reps in practice for the Browns, and it could happen again for their game against the Rams on Sunday.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Flacco was the backup quarterback this week, which would put the former Super Bowl MVP in line to start if rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson does not clear concussion protocol.

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“No reason to make any decisions just yet,” Stefanski said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Flacco signed with the Browns (7-4) on Nov. 20 after starter Deshaun Watson was ruled out for the season because of a right shoulder injury, joining Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker at the position.

Thompson-Robinson was injured in a 29-12 loss to the Broncos on Sunday, putting Flacco in line to play for the first time since starting for the Jets in the 2022 season finale. Flacco was 18-of-33 passing for 149 yards in the Jets’ 11-6 loss to the Dolphins.

With the Browns spending the week in Los Angeles, including practicing at UCLA, Stefanski believes the format is conducive to preparing the 38-year-old Flacco in case he has to play.

“The nice part is we’re all under one roof, so it’s easy to meet extra on an off day if the guys are in the building and they want to swing by, so that’s the nice part,” Stefanski said. “We’re all together.”

This is Flacco’s fourth NFL team, and Stefanski believes that previous experience is helping with the adjustment.

“Joe, as you guys know, has been in a bunch of different systems, been in a bunch of different buildings, so he knows how it works,” Stefanski said. “He knows how different operations have different nuance, if you will, so he’s getting up to speed with what we do. He’s done a nice job.”

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There might be more adjustments for Stefanski, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, and the Browns, who built a system for mobile passers in Watson, Thompson-Robinson, and Walker.

Flacco, who has thrown for 42,320 yards and 232 touchdowns with 147 interceptions in 183 games for the Ravens, Broncos, and Jets, is not exactly known for his elusiveness.

“I’m sure we’ll have a few more wrinkles in there,” left guard Joel Bitonio said.

Cowboys ready for Seahawks

Dak Prescott and the Cowboys have one more game before a highly anticipated NFC East rematch.

This time, it’s an opponent with a winning record as the Seahawks visit Thursday night before the Cowboys (8-3) get a little break in anticipation of the Eagles coming to town Dec. 10.

Dallas, which has a 13-game home winning streak, has beaten three consecutive double-digit underdogs by an average of 30 points. The Seahawks (6-5) are close, with Dallas favored by 8½.

But the Cowboys say they won’t be peeking around the corner at the Eagles, who won, 28-23, in Philadelphia to start November in a game Dallas easily could have won.

“Seattle is giving us plenty to worry about, plenty to focus on,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “There’s a lot of length between Seattle and the next one. I don’t see that as an issue at all.”

Jackson to retire an Eagle

DeSean Jackson will officially retire as a member of the Eagles on Friday, the team said. Jackson made the Pro Bowl in three of his eight seasons with the Eagles. He played 15 years overall and had stints with the Los Angeles Rams, Washington, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Las Vegas, but he is best known for the six-year run in Philadelphia at the start of his career. Jackson will be recognized as the honorary captain Sunday when the Eagles host the 49ers . . . Texans offensive lineman Tytus Howard was placed on injured reserve with a left knee injury. Howard, who is in his fifth season, injured his knee in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars. It’s his second stint on IR this season after he missed the first four games after breaking his right hand in training camp. A first-round pick in 2019, Howard started seven games this season protecting star rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and has 61 starts in his career . . . The Lions put Hendon Hooker on the practice field for the first time, opening a 21-day window to decide whether to activate the rookie quarterback or to keep him on injured reserve reserve for the rest of the year. Hooker went through drills on Wednesday, a little more than a year after tearing a ligament in his left knee. The 2022 SEC Offensive Player of the Year spent the past two years at Tennessee after playing in three seasons in four years at Virginia Tech. The Lions drafted Hooker in the third round, No. 68 overall, with no expectations that he would play as a rookie.

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