LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Green Bay, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers’ return is a go.

The Packers’ two-time MVP quarterback, who was placed on injured reserve after breaking his right collarbone Oct. 15 against Minnesota, is on track to practice today, coach Mike McCarthy said.

“He’s got a workout today that we’ll obviously evaluate,” McCarthy said Friday. “We’re looking tomorrow to potentially practice him in a trial return. That’s the outlook.”

Rodgers had surgery on Oct. 19 and was placed on injured reserve the following day.

NFL rules allow teams to bring back two players off injured reserve. Those players must be sidelined for a minimum of six weeks; Friday marked six weeks for Rodgers.

Rodgers threw several passes of at least 50 yards before Sunday night’s loss to Pittsburgh.

“You saw him throwing out there in Pittsburgh,” quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said Thursday. “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.”

Now there is something to talk about. If the Packers (5-6) can stay in the playoff race by beating Tampa Bay (4-7) on Sunday and Cleveland (0-11) next weekend, Rodgers could return for the Dec. 17 game at Carolina.

Rodgers’ potential return to practice should provide a lift for a team that lost the Minnesota game and four of the five starts by Brett Hundley.

“Absolutely, I think it’s a big deal when you see your leader out there,” McCarthy said.

“The guys have been able to watch him work here the last couple weeks. He’s been going through the fundamental part of it. That’d be great to have him out there.”

Among those players who saw Rodgers’ workouts was outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who rehabbed with Rodgers last week while nursing a groin injury.

“This past week, being a part of that rehab group, to watch Aaron, what he’s been doing in there, I think we probably should have kept him off IR,” Matthews said Wednesday. “The way he’s coming along, some of the balls he’s throwing, accuracy-wise, everything a quarterback has to do is pretty remarkable.”

Even if Rodgers returns to the lineup, the Packers face a challenging final three games with contests against the Panthers (8-3), Vikings (9-2) and Lions (6-5).

“If we can go out and win these two in a row and get A-Rod back, things are going to turn around,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said.

Personnel dept.

The Panthers will be without starting defensive end Charles Johnson for this Sunday’s pivotal NFC showdown with the Saints.

Johnson, an 11-year veteran, has been suspended without pay for the team’s next four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. The NFL announced the suspension Friday. Johnson’s suspension begins immediately. He’s eligible to return to the Panthers’ active roster on Dec. 25.

... Domata Peko’s 123-game starting streak, the longest by a defensive lineman in the NFL, will come to an end this weekend.

Coach Vance Joseph ruled out the Broncos’ nose tackle because of a sprained ligament in his left knee.

Peko (Michigan State) was injured in the Broncos’ 21-14 loss at Oakland last week.

... Raiders guard Gabe Jackson has been fined $30,387 by the NFL for making contact with an official.

Broncos safety Darian Stewart was fined $24,309 for his hit on Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper, who suffered a concussion.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE