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Rivera: Panthers expect Aaron Rodgers 'on his game'

Few are surprised Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers returned at the earliest possible date after undergoing collarbone surgery.

Least shocked might be the Packers' Sunday opponent, the Carolina Panthers.

"Everybody knew from the beginning that he was coming back for our game," coach Ron Rivera told Packers reporters in a conference call on Wednesday, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Rodgers was medically cleared on Tuesday and will play for the first time since Week 6. Rivera said he knew the moment the Packers put the QB on IR eight weeks ago that he'd return in Week 15.

"If you think about it, the way they set it up, presented everything, you just knew the goal was to get him back as soon as possible," he said. "They wanted to maintain, keep themselves in playoff position, and that's what they've done. That's the kind of football team they are. They did a great job.

"Now, the opportunity to have them on the field, (expletive), I'm not surprised. Not one bit."

At 7-6, the Packers still need help to blast into the playoffs, but winning out gives them a shot. Even with a healthy Rodgers, besting a good Panthers defense isn't a given.

Rivera said he's planning to see the two-time MVP at full force on Sunday afternoon, noting a player of Rodgers' caliber doesn't need much time to knock off the rust.

"Aaron Rodgers is one of those guys that probably really doesn't need a lot of practice," Rivera said. "And knowing Aaron Rodgers, he's probably been throwing the ball for four, five weeks already anyways. So, I mean, seriously, I'm just trying to be honest about how I feel who this young man is. I think he's one of the elite guys. We know he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I'm just being honest.

"I expect this guy to be on his game, and we have to approach it that way."

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