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Packers' Rodgers practices for first time since medical clearance

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Aaron Rodgers returned to practice for the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday. With the playoffs still a realistic possibility, the quarterback is expected to start in Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

And while Rodgers acknowledged he will be careful about sliding instead of taking a direct hit when he scrambles in the future, he said coming back from his second concussion this season won't fundamentally change the way he plays.

"I have zero doubts taking the field," Rodgers said. "I feel confident. I've been cleared. The doctors are confident. I'm going to continue to play the way I play."

Rodgers sat out practices and team meetings last week and didn't play in last Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots. More than anything, Rodgers said he missed joking around with his teammates.

NFL Network insider Michael Lombardi reported Tuesday night, citing a league source, that Rodgers was cleared to return to practice.

When Rodgers returned, so did the jokes. Some came at his expense.

Rodgers wore a new helmet at Wednesday's practice. While it didn't look remarkably different from a distance, some of his teammates apparently thought Rodgers looked funny.

"It's a different helmet, and I don't think there was anything overly wrong with the last helmet," Rodgers said. "But guys definitely gave me a hard time about the way it looked."

Concussions, of course, are no laughing matter in the NFL these days, as more information comes out about the potential long-term health consequences of head injuries in football.

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While Rodgers and Packers coach Mike McCarthy declined to offer specifics on the new helmet, it presumably offers more protection than the previous model the quarterback wore.

That didn't exactly stop Rodgers' teammates from ribbing him about it.

"His helmet is just hideous, but you've got to do what you've got to do," wide receiver Greg Jennings said.

Rodgers said he isn't worried about how he looks in it.

"I'm just a little more worried about how I play in it," he said. "So hopefully I play pretty well in it."

McCarthy said Rodgers is expected to start at Lambeau Field, and the Packers are virtually assured of a playoff spot if they win their last two games. They finish the regular season with a home game against the NFC North champion Chicago Bears.

While McCarthy acknowledged the success of backup Matt Flynn in Sunday's loss at New England, the coach looks forward to getting back the "commander in chief" of his offense.

"Matt had an opportunity this past week and did some very positive things, but Aaron is our starting quarterback," McCarthy said. "He has been very productive and he is going to have to play big Sunday for us to be successful."

Practice on Wednesday was Rodgers' first with the team since he sustained a concussion during a Dec. 12 loss to the Detroit Lions. He took the majority of snaps during the portion of practice open to reporters Wednesday, and Flynn and Graham Harrell also took some.

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Rodgers said he didn't do much beyond resting last week, as the team kept him out of meetings during his recovery.

"The previous (concussion), the symptoms cleared up a little quicker," Rodgers said. "But I didn't have to be sent home. And I've never been sent home from work before, and I definitely missed the guys."

During the break, Rodgers said he reached out to other players who have had concussion issues for advice, but he wasn't willing to share what they told him. And while he acknowledged that he wanted to play against the Patriots, he wouldn't provide details about the team's decision to sit him down.

"I'm not going to get into the process of how it went down," Rodgers said. "There was a decision made, and it was a decision made in my best interest."

While Packers fans are likely to hide their eyes the next time Rodgers takes off running, he can't promise he won't try to go for extra yards once in a while.

"I've been a guy who's slid 95 percent of the time," Rodgers 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."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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