FLORHAM PARK — Having a franchise quarterback on your roster is something few teams across the NFL have. For the first time in over five decades, the New York Jets are one of those teams.
Because of that, Gang Green is already reaping the benefits of having Aaron Rodgers on the current roster both on and off the field in a variety of ways.
“It’s been cool. I joke around in saying that he is closer to a coach than he is to a player at this point in his career. He’s been a fantastic mind, fantastic conversation. It’s been all positive,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said before Tuesday’s OTA practice.
Offseason activities have begun for the Jets and they have surprisingly had the 39-year-old quarterback in attendance for most of the practices open to the public. But that was something Rodgers himself wanted to do while being in a new facility for the first time in over two decades.
“It’s been awesome. I haven’t been to OTAs in the last couple of years so it’s been nice to kind of be out here,” Rodgers explained. “With a new offense, being in my first year here, I wanted to be around for at least some of the beginning things to let them know how I like to do things.”
Rodgers has been consistent in trying to build relationships with everyone in the Jets organization but particularly the offensive staff. His relationship with former Packers’ offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was a reason why the future Hall-of-Famer wanted to join New York, but is also why he’s currently working with young players.
But even his former coach, and players being with him from his past haven’t made up for the special feeling of being the newest member of the Jets franchise.
“Every day I wake up wanting to come into the facility. I have an excitement coming down 1 Jets Drive…ever day there’s been a cool moment that reminds me I’m in the right place,” Rodgers said with a smile.
It hasn’t always been easy for Rodgers since coming to New York though. While he stated Tuesday that he’s looking for a more permanent place of residence, the 19-year NFL vet suffered a strain in his calf that kept him out of practice throughout day two of OTAs.
The quarterback’s injury may not be serious, but it’s still a clear warning sign that the team will need to make sure their signal-caller is healthy and able to go out and perform at a high level this season.
That, and trying to get the offense to where they need to be in preparation for the 2023 regular season leaves a lot of work to be done with plenty of examples coming in the last couple of days alone.
“He’s not a loud person. We weren’t happy with our performance yesterday against the defense, and we were in the huddle today and he essentially told us to make sure to finish and doing all the little details because yesterday wasn’t good enough. That was it. I think it’s that presence, he’s an expert so it’s nice to have that,” Jets tight end CJ Uzomah explained.
That kind of oversight from Rodgers comes after years of championship play and MVP caliber performances. It’s also something the team has severely lacked over the last half century at the quarterback position.
“I’m not a rah-rah type of guy but I stress to the guys we need to be intentional…the attention to detail wasn’t good yesterday and the finish wasn’t there. It’s just refocusing on the things we need to do in practice,” the MVP stated when asked about Monday’s practice.
Having a Hall-of-Fame caliber player on the roster has changed the Jets fortune in a major way both on and off the field to this point. The fact that Saleh and the offensive staff see that excitement their quarterback has shown is just icing on the cake for a team trying to end a decade-long playoff drought.
“He’s a kid in an old man’s body. He’s having a blast..just the way he interacts with his teammates in the building and just communicating with people, I think he’s a genuine person,” Saleh explained.
As Rodgers now recovers from a calf injury, the team will be focusing on making sure that the rest of the roster is ready for the start of the regular season that has plenty of star-studded matchups in front. It doesn’t look like the former Cal product won’t be going anywhere either as he prepares for what might his best chance at a championship in decades.