Aaron Rodgers is back.
Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy made it official Thursday, announcing the quarterback will return from a seven-game absence Sunday when the team meets the Chicago Bears in a matchup that will decide the NFC North.
The word came shortly after Rodgers took first-team reps in the portion of practice open to the media. It was a change in protocol from recent weeks, during which Matt Flynn worked with the first team as Rodgers looked on.
Rodgers has been sidelined since suffering a broken collarbone in a Nov. 4 loss to the Bears. Green Bay has leaned on its medical staff in determining Rodgers' return, a stance that led to public frustration from the quarterback, coach and fan base. The Packers went just 2-4-1 without the 2011 MVP and have remained alive in their division largely thanks to the failings of their rivals.
Though rust is a fair concern, there's no understating how important the star quarterback's return is to a Packers team built around his greatness. A healthy Rodgers gives the Packers a puncher's chance against any NFC contender.
That starts with the Bears, who can't be thrilled about Thursday's news.