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QB Aaron Rodgers, 2 Days into Jets OTAs: 'I Feel I Can Do Anything'

With His Achilles Rehab Almost Completed, He's Throwing and Running Like the ARod of Old


Aaron Rodgers, as a former Packer and brand-new Jet, displayed his well-known style and intensity and on-field leadership right up until the devastating injury that ended his first Jets season infamously after those first four plays and 4:04 of clock time on opening night.

But now that he's a year older and trying to set the Green & White table once more, he was asked if he could match last year's motivation, now that he's in a seemingly fragile situation as a 40-year-old QB coming off Achilles injury rehab and expected to play with championship results once more.

Rodgers' rapid reaction to that "tough" premise at today's post-OTA media session? "Good ... more, now that you mention it. So thank you for that."

It sounded as if Rodgers hadn't thought about the M-word much as he focused all his energies seemingly on getting back quicker from an Achilles injury than perhaps anyone else in the history of football. But of course he has thought plenty about his return to running the Jets offense and being the ARod of old.

"I have a lot of motivation. I love the game and I want to play at a high level," he said. "I don't want to go out as a bum. I want to be able to play. You guys saw me today. Yeah, no pads on, but I can still throw with the best of 'em, I can still move around. I'm looking forward to being able to move the way I was last year. I think all the individual possibilities for recognition will be great. But if I play the way I'm capable of playing, we're going to be playing for a lot more than that."

Rodgers, confident to the nth degree but not a braggart, has several reasons for feeling this confident this early on the schedule. One is that as he said of the OTA practices, "this is the last part" of his rehab.

"I feel really good," he said. "It's just about the mental part. The practices have been nice the last couple of days. It feels nice to be out there moving around, not thinking about it, and seeing how I respond the next day." He added that now as opposed to the end of last season when he ran the scout team, "I feel I can run at top speed ... I feel I can do anything."

"He has no restrictions, and he looks good, man," head coach Robert Saleh said. "The arm talent, obviously, is still there, but it's really just reacclimating to everything, and we're trying a bunch of new stuff, too."

At least one teammate had a similar analysis of No. 8 a year later. "Nothing's going to stop him," CB Sauce Gardner said. "His arm has always been there, his mechanics have always been there. The injury's not going to stop him. He's still that same guy."

The talent around him, at WR and also on the OL, has pleased Rodgers. Working with Garrett Wilson again (this time wearing uniform No. 5), Rodgers reiterated, "He's got all the makings of a star receiver." Mike Williams, he noted "is just getting healthy," while of third-round rookie Malachi Corley, "the part I enjoy is his confidence." LT Tyron Smith is "a specimen, a big, strong man," and RT Morgan Moses is simply "big Moses."

The schedule, as jam-packed as it is with those six primetime games (plus a London trip) in the first 11 weeks, also doesn't faze the QB. "Thursday games are always tough, it doesn't matter if you're a first-year player or a 20-year player ... as far as being able to bounce back," he said before putting a "challenging" positive spin on the first month of the season: "Two road games to start, the Thursday home game [vs. the Patriots], the mini-bye — to start the season out like that is definitely a good challenge for us."

On the question of hunger, closely related to the topic of motivation, can a 40-year-old Rodgers be any hungrier than he was in 2009, when he and the Packers overcame a 6-10 record in his first year as the starter to go 11-5 and reach the playoffs for the first time? Or in 2010, when the Pack won Super Bowl XLV? Or in 2016, when Green Bay went to the NFC title game? Or last year before the injury?

"I don't know ... I was pretty damn hungry last year," Rodgers recalled before turning to the pleasant vibe so far of this offseason at One Jets Drive. "I'm enjoying this time, I really am. It's been a very interesting eight, nine months, a lot of grinding to get back. So I'm trying to enjoy this time and everything that comes with it, get to know my guys, and look for ways to help us get better."

See all of the best images from Tuesday's practice of Jets OTAs in 2024.

Another question alluded to personal distractions, with one recent ARod sidebar being broached regarding reports that he was among the candidates for Robert Kennedy Jr.'s vice presidential running mate. Rodgers and Kennedy are friends, and Rodgers said the veep consideration "was a real thing."

But it seemed that politics wasn't close to topping the allure of Rodgers' successful rehab, his still prodigious arm talent, the new and old talent around him and that trademark AR motivation.

"I love Bobby. We had a couple of really nice conversations," he said. "But there were really two options. There was retire and be his VP or keep playing. And I want to keep playing."

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