"It feels great to be back," Rodgers said in front of dozens of reporters gathered around his locker after Wednesday's practice. "I think the toughest thing about last week, after being sent home early Wednesday and Thursday, was not being around the guys. I missed just the locker room and the practice and the pre-practice stretching and cracking jokes and stuff, so it was good to be back with the guys."
Rodgers, who watched from the sideline as Matt Flynn and the Packers lost 31-27 at New England on Sunday night, was cleared to practice on Tuesday after passing the physical and cognitive tests and being cleared by an independent neurologist from a concussion sustained during the second quarter at Detroit on Dec. 12.
He was listed as "full participation" on the injury report.
The Packers (8-6) must beat the Giants (9-5) on Sunday and the Chicago Bears (10-4) on Jan. 2 to earn a wild-card playoff berth. The Bears won the NFC North title by beating Minnesota on Monday.
"Aaron Rodgers is clearly one of our best, or the best player on our football team," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He is commander-in-chief of the offense. He does a very good job. Matt had an opportunity this past week and did some very positive things, but Aaron is our starting quarterback. He has been very productive and he is going to have to play big Sunday for us to be successful."
After suffering his second concussion of the season, Rodgers is wearing a new helmet that's high on function if low on form.
"It scrunches his face up pretty bad," receiver Greg Jennings said with obvious delight.
"I haven't looked yet," Rodgers said after being relayed Jennings' fashion assessment. "I'm going to wait and see the film. I'm not really so worried about how I look in it. I'm just a little more worried about how I play in it. So, hopefully I play pretty well in it."
Aside from throwing some passes during pregame warm-ups at New England, it was Rodgers' first action since the back of his head slammed off the Ford Field turf at the end of a scramble in which he elected not to slide. He said he didn't feel rusty.
Rodgers said he's seen the highlight from the Detroit game, talked to McCarthy about the play and will try to make better decisions in the future. But the injury risk is part of the business for an athletic quarterback who saw the potential for a big play but didn't see two defenders coming from behind. And with the team's playoff future at stake, Rodgers knows there's a fine line to walk.
"You know what, I've been a guy who's slid 95 percent of the time," he said. "I'm usually pretty smart outside the pocket. There's some circumstances where that can't happen or doesn't happen, but this game is a reactionary game. It's a collision sport. There's going to be collisions on the field. Obviously, you want to minimize those when you're a quarterback, but I'm going to continue to play the way I play and slide when I'm able to."
For the long term, Rodgers said he's not worried, even though concussions have forced recent quarterback greats like Troy Aikman and Steve Young to retire prematurely and have put current players like Colts receiver Austin Collie on the shelf again. Rodgers, who said he ha's been "assured" he's not at a higher level of risk because of his two concussions in two months, said he has reached out to a couple of players, though he wouldn't go into specifics.
However, concussion research is a relatively new field, with knowledge on the subject growing rapidly. Rodgers says he trusts the experts who say he can play without fear of suffering long-term effects from the brain injuries.
"I think there's been a lot of research that's been done, and I trust the NFLPA and NFL working together to improve player safety and dealing with concussions," Rodgers said. "Feel very confident with the diagnosis I got and the clearance I got."
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.