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Aaron Rodgers Looks Back to 'One of the Best, Hardest Years of My Life' ...

... And Looks Ahead to 2024 NFL Season, and ‘I Say Bring It On’


Few Jets fans will forget the euphoric feeling leading up to last year's regular-season opener against Buffalo at MetLife Stadium on Monday night Sept. 11.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wearing jersey No. 8, which he wore at Cal-Berkeley, dashing onto the field holding the American flag. Then four plays into the game, Rodgers' inaugural season playing for the Green & White was over before it ever got started.

"It was one of the best, hardest years of my life," Rodgers told Eric Allen during an edition of "The Official Jets Podcast." "I'm super thankful for all the highs and lows. But I'm hoping for a little smoother ride this year."

And for all his challenges after tearing an Achilles tendon, Rodgers -- ever the optimist -- came away with a boatload of positive experiences.

"Everything was new," he said. "New city. New state to live in. New facility, new teammates and coaching staff, awesome men and women at work here at One Jets Drive. The fanbase. You know all of the things that we did last year in the summertime, the Broadway stuff, the restaurants, late nights and pizza spots. It was a different place, a different city, and then just to run on the field with the American flag ... I've never done that before. On 9/11. And just how electric that was.

"There's been a lot of beauty that's come out of the heartbreak and frustration and I'm gonna try and channel as much as I can to this season, these guys, trying to give our fans a lot to cheer about."

Simply knowing that Rodgers is ready to run it back gives Jets fans a lot to cheer about. And with a revamped offensive line (adding veterans Tyron Smith, Moses Morgan and John Simpson; plus first-round draft pick Olu Fashanu), more waiting arms for him to throw to (with veteran wide receiver Mike Williams and rookie Malachi Corley) and more talent in the backfield (draftees Braelon Allen and Isaiah Davis), Rodgers said he's positively champing at the bit as he looks ahead to the Week 1 Monday night clash against the San Francisco 49ers back in his native California.

"Life comes full circle for us," Rodgers said. "I figured out I'm re-entering the lions' den when [Niners TE] George Kittle posted something on Instagram that said something like 'see you soon,' with a picture of him and me with long hair on the field in Green Bay. There was a moment, probably when there may have been some sort of review or something, both offenses were on the field. And I was like 'oh shoot, we're gonna play the Niners the first game.' And I knew that the San Fran game was on the road and putting us there in the opening game ... I figured if you put those two marquee teams, it had to be either Sunday night or Monday night. So I'm excited about it.

"That's a long, long trip. It's a great stadium. I played in it. That was my team growing up. A lot was made a million years ago about them having the first pick. I love Alex [Smith, who was taken first overall in 2005, the year Rodgers was drafted by the Packers at No. 24] and things happen the way they happen. It's a great way of starting the season for us, just to see how we match up against a great football team. And it'll be great on great because for the most part in Week 1 because you go against that full squad. And no one's ever going to be 100 percent throughout the season from that point. So we finally see how our 100 percent in Week 1 stacks up against their 100 percent."

Rodgers is back with a team that returns an elite defense and presents him with a deeper, more versatile and by several degrees a more dangerous offense for the four-time NFL MVP and future Hall of Famer to direct.

"I believe in the roster, for sure, and I love what [GM] Joe [Douglas] has done," Rogers said. "I love that we brought in Malachi, he was my favorite receiver in the draft. He might not have been the best on paper in the draft, but I really felt like he was going to fit in with what we're trying to do, his mindset and his ferocity. And we bring in Braelon Allen, who is now sitting in front of me in a meeting. He's half my age, I'm [going to be] 41 [in December] before he turns 21 [in January].The guy can't even drink legally, but he's a monster. I remember him in Wisconsin, as a 17-year-old playing games for the University of Wisconsin. I thought that was absolutely crazy. When you watch the videos and see him squat and bench three, four plates ... he's a monster. And you're putting him behind one of the most-versatile backs in the league [Breece Hall]. He proved last year he can catch the ball out of the backfield and make plays, and obviously runs his ass off.

See all of the best images of the Jets during week 1 of 2024 OTAs.

"And now you put them behind an offensive line that's revamped, a Hall-of-Fame left tackle [Smith], a young up-and-coming left guard [Simpson], a brilliant center [Joe Tippmann] who played a few different positions for us last year and who really learned to control things, he's got the right disposition. AVT [Alijah Vera-Tucker] who can play at a Pro Bowl level and then a vet [Morgan] who was here who left and came back, who's really added a lot in a short amount of time. One of the coolest things and one of the things that makes me love this game is watching Morgan talking to Carter [Warren] in the locker room. Olu comes over and pick Tyron's brain. And just to see the information sharing that's going on. That's beautiful. And we didn't have that last year. You know, it wasn't the veteran-leading line in the same way that it is now. Now our backups' roles and we're very confident in those guys, Max Mitchell and Xavier Newman played a lot of snaps who are going to get opportunities next man up, to give us a depth back there that we really didn't maybe have last year. So excited about that.

"We've learned some lessons that we can take with us and if we did, we can start as hot as we want. And if not, we might go through the soup, some adversity early in the season. And that'll be a great learning tool for us. But I like it. I love our guys. I really do. I like our chances. I really like our chances. We're starting off the season with a cross-country road trip versus a great football team and then flying to Tennessee and playing a team with a new coach and then a short week against one of our rivals [New England, Thursday night Sept. 19]. People say let's see in three games and 11 days. And I say bring it on."

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