Saleh says it'll be Rodgers' call to play again with Jets if he's cleared by doctors to return

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers will have the final call on whether he plays again this season for the New York Jets — if and when he gets medical clearance.

Coach Robert Saleh said Wednesday the team will defer to the four-time NFL MVP, who's rehabilitating from a torn left Achilles tendon four snaps into his debut with the Jets on Sept. 11.

“Aaron’s a big boy, a grown man, and no one’s going to know Aaron’s body like Aaron knows his body,” Saleh said. “And if he feels, after all the doctors clear him — and I’m sure there’s a million of them, I have no idea on that stuff — but if Aaron says he wants to play, he’s going to play.”

In other words, the Jets won't stand in the way of a healthy Rodgers returning when he's ready.

Rodgers, who turns 40 on Dec. 2, has repeatedly said his goal is to return late this season. NBC’s Melissa Stark reported during the telecast of the Jets’ 16-12 loss to the Raiders in Las Vegas last Sunday night that his goal is to return to the field by mid-December.

While Rodgers has not said whether that could mean the Jets' road game at Miami on Dec. 17, home game against Washington on Christmas Eve or at Cleveland on Dec. 28.

But he has mentioned several times that coming back this season would be contingent on whether the Jets (4-5) are still in the playoff hunt.

“If I have a great week this week and next week, that could be accelerated,” he said on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Tuesday. “If we’re not in it in three or four weeks, that could take it a different way. But I expect us to be in it and I expect to come back.”

Whether that's all wishful thinking remains to be seen.

The Jets have a tough stretch coming up with AFC East matchups at Buffalo on Sunday and at home against Miami on Nov. 24 in the NFL's first game on the day after Thanksgiving. New York is then at home for consecutive games against Atlanta on Dec. 3 and Houston on Dec. 10.

While New York's defense has been playing at a high level, the offense without Rodgers has struggled mightily. Zach Wilson and the Jets enter their game Sunday at Buffalo having not scored a touchdown in their past 36 offensive possessions, a span that encompasses 11 quarters and an overtime period.

The Jets' offense held a players-only meeting Tuesday to talk through some of the issues they're facing.

“We've spent a lot of time talking, kind of individually with different groups,” Wilson said. “I think it was a good time for everyone to be able to be in the same room together as an offense and try to figure some things out, how we can get better. ... Just kind of getting everybody's thoughts.”

New York also made one significant move Tuesday by waiving popular backup running back Michael Carter. Saleh said it was more about giving rookie Israel Abanikanda an opportunity to play and not have Carter “just sit there and rot on the bench.”

Saleh said other personnel changes will be made, but wouldn't divulge them. Either way, New York will need to make some drastic improvements on offense for the Jets to remain in contention for Rodgers to consider coming back.

“The pressure is to keep it afloat just to keep it afloat,” Saleh said. "You know, the pressure to go to the playoffs is always pressure. It’s not for any one individual. It’s not for any possibility. It’s because we’re competitors and we want to win football games.

“And I think Aaron’s just icing on the cake.”

A return this season by Rodgers would be unprecedented in terms of recovery time. A torn Achilles tendon usually takes between six and ninth months, but Rodgers reportedly had a “speed bridge” procedure on Sept. 13 and it's designed to expedite the healing time.

Rodgers is rehabilitating in the Los Angeles area, but has been traveling to the Jets' recent games and watching from the sideline while wearing a headset to hear the play calls. He said on “The Pat McAfee Show” he intends to rejoin the team on a full-time basis as soon as next week.

“I have an admiration for him,” Saleh said. “We’re very young on the offensive side of the ball and his veteran presence is always welcome. But for him, personally speaking for Aaron, not to speak for him, but just to get himself back in the building, reacclimated around his teammates, reinvolved in meetings and then, you know, whenever his clock starts, it starts — if it’s able to at all.”

NOTES: WR Garrett Wilson was listed as limited for the Jets' walkthrough practice with an injured elbow. ... OL Billy Turner (finger) and LBs Chazz Surratt (ankle) and LB Sam Eguavoen (hip) didn't practice. ... The Jets began the 21-day practice window for TE Kenny Yeboah to return from injured reserve. He was a full participant Wednesday. ... DL Tanzel Smart was signed to the practice squad and DB Craig James was released.