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Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks’ Russell Wilson cleared to return, setting up potential showdown with Packers’ Aaron Rodgers

Nov. 8, 2021 Updated Mon., Nov. 8, 2021 at 8:55 p.m.

Pete Carroll throws his arm around Russell Wilson before the game against the Jacksonville on Oct. 31 in Seattle.  (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)
Pete Carroll throws his arm around Russell Wilson before the game against the Jacksonville on Oct. 31 in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

Sunday’s Seahawks game at Green Bay may feature a Russell Wilson-Aaron Rodgers quarterback matchup after all.

Wilson, who missed the past three games after suffering a ruptured tendon and dislocation in his right middle finger Oct. 7 against the Rams, was officially designed as returning to practice off of Injured Reserve Monday, according to a statement released by the team.

The Seahawks’ statement quoted Dr. Steven Shin, who performed surgery Oct. 8 on Wilson, saying “I am absolutely amazed at his progress, so much so that I can now confidently clear him for full return to play without reservation.”

Wilson had foreshadowed the news with a tweet a few minutes before the Seahawks’ statement.

Wilson posted “It’s Time” with a 39-second video of scenes of his recovery that included a scene of Lambeau Field – the site of Sunday’s game.

Shin’s statement further stated: “On October 7, 2021, Russell Wilson sustained severe injuries to the middle finger of his right (throwing) hand during a game. He had immediate surgery the following day in the form of a repair of a fracture-dislocation of his proximal interphalangeal joint and an extensor tendon rupture (mallet finger). Although this was uncharted territory (I have never in my career seen such a severe injury to the throwing hand of an NFL quarterback), I have also never encountered a player so committed to his postoperative therapy and with so much conviction to return to the same, if not better, level of performance as he had pre-injury.”

Wilson returning to practice opens a 21-day window in which he can practice – he was expected to be on the field with the team Monday when the team returned for a short practice following its bye week.

The team can then activate him to the 53-man roster at any time during that 21 days. He would have to be activated 24 hours before Sunday’s game to be able to play.

The Seahawks also designated receiver Dee Eskridge and cornerback Nigel Warrior as returning to practice, also opening 21-day windows for each player. Eskridge has not played since the opener in Indianapolis, in which he suffered a concussion. He was Seattle’s first pick in the 2021 draft, taken 56th overall. Warrior, who was claimed off waivers from the Ravens before the season, has been sidelined all season with a knee injury. If the players are not activated to the 53-man roster after 21 days then they will return to IR for the rest of the season.

With Wilson out, Geno Smith started the past three games for the Seahawks. Seattle went 1-2 – three-point losses to the Steelers and Saints and a 31-7 win over Jacksonville.

Wilson all along had reportedly had set the Green Bay game as a target date from the minute he had surgery in Los Angeles. Wilson actually took part in practice the next week – though with his two middle fingers wrapped and doing nothing with a ball other than throwing a few passes with his left hand – before being placed on injured reserve Oct. 15.

Wilson continued to attend all practices and games. He worked out on his own separate from the team during practice, and he conducted extensive workouts on the field before games. Now, he appears to have hit his planned goal of missing just three games – the only three he has not started in his 10-year NFL career. His injury snapped a streak of 149 consecutive starts dating to the first game of his rookie year in 2012.

As for Rodgers, he missed Green Bay’s loss Sunday at Kansas City after testing positive for COVID-19.

And because he is unvaccinated, he has a 10-day protocol he has to go through before he can return.

Rodgers would be eligible to return Saturday in time for Sunday’s game.

And the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Rodgers appears on track to complete that process, which includes being symptom free and cleared by an independent doctor.

Rapoport said that Rodgers “should be good to go” Saturday and “should be able to play next week for the Packers.”

And while that means he won’t practice all week, Packers coach Matt LaFleur said after Sunday’s 13-7 loss to the Chiefs that if Rodgers is eligible to play he will start against Seattle. Second-year QB Jordan Love made what was his first career start in place of Rodgers.

LaFleur said “absolutely” when asked if Rodgers will start if cleared.

“He’s our starting quarterback,” LaFleur said. “I think he’s gone through enough where, yeah, you’d like guys to practice all week long. But I don’t think it’s absolutely imperative to be able to do that. We just have to make sure he’s well in-tune with our plan and he feels good about it, and that we Zoom him in for the meetings or whatever it may be. But we’ll see where we’re at toward the end of the week.”

LaFleur told reporters in Green Bay Monday that Love will get the starter’s reps in practice this week while Rodgers will be in all meetings on Zoom and that the gameplan will be tailored for either to start.

“You always have to prepare for either guy to be available so you have to have a healthy mix that both are comfortable with,’’ LaFleur said.

Rodgers and Wilson have faced off six times in the regular season – going 3-3 – and two times in the playoffs, each winning once. Wilson is 0-4 at Lambeau, with all four wins coming in Seattle.

A ninth-game rubber match, which at times in the past few weeks seemed unlikely, now seems a possibility.

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