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Rodgers returns to practice

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) works out during his rehab during practice on Nov. 15 inside the Don Hutson Center. Rodgers returned to practice with the team on Saturday. (Jim Matthews/Green Bay Post Gazette via USA TODAY NETWORK)

The Sports Xchange

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers celebrated his birthday Saturday by practicing with the team for the first time since breaking his collarbone on Oct. 15.

Rodgers, who turned 34, was designated to return off injured reserve on Saturday but can’t return to play in a game for at least two more weeks because of the IR rules. The earliest he can return is in Week 15 when the Packers travel to play the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 17.

The 5-6 Packers are home Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) and travel to Cleveland to face the winless Browns (0-11) the following week before Rodgers’ expected return.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy was asked whether Rodgers’ return could inspire the Packers in their push to make the playoffs.

“Absolutely. I think it’s a big deal when you see your leader out there,” McCarthy said Friday. “Definitely. The guys have been able to watch him work here the last couple weeks. He’s been going through the fundamental part of it. But I think you also have to be in-tune with the trial of return mode. ... But yeah, that’d be great to have him out there.”

Rodgers was seen throwing on the field ahead of last Sunday’s 31-28 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers as he continued his recovery from the Oct. 19 surgery. Saturday’s practice was closed to reporters.

In six games this season, Rodgers completed 128 of 193 passes (66.3 percent) for 1,385 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. He was the NFL’s MVP in 2011 and 2014, and he led the Packers to the Super Bowl XLV title after the 2010 season.