It's been 18 years since Aaron Rodgers was a rookie, but the Jets new QB was the main topic Friday after the Green & White concluded its first rookie minicamp workout.
Rodgers, acquired from the Packers last week, immediately jumped into the team's voluntary program and is helping the Jets transition to a new offensive system under OC Nathaniel Hackett.
"It's been good," HC Robert Saleh said. "I've never been around a quarterback quite like him personally and all his experience, his communication. Every play talking to the receivers, talking to the backs, his demeanor in the meetings, all that stuff. He is practically another coach out there, he's pretty impressive."
While Rodgers elected to skip the voluntary program the past few years in Green Bay, Saleh isn't surprised the four-time NFL MVP has been on the field with his new teammates this spring.
"How vocal he is in good way and how positive he is with the group and how much he wants to share his knowledge. It's impressive," Saleh said. "Personally, and I don't know if this is the right thing to say, but I was never worried about whether or not he was going to be here. I always felt that he was going to be here if he did decide to be a Jet. And he does understand he has to get acclimated to the new building, he has to get the receivers acclimated to him, and he'll have to get the verbiage and help get everybody on the same page.
"So in my mind, you just see a fire in the guy's eyes, he's going to do everything. He's coming to win and you can just feel it in his voice, and you can see it in his eyes the way he's going about his business."
In addition to Rodgers, the Jets have signed several former Packers this offseason including WRs Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, OL Billy Turner and QB Tim Boyle. Wideout Malik Taylor also spent 2020-21 with Rodgers and Hackett.
"It is very common for new faces to want old faces, to be able to come in and help the installation of a program," Saleh said. "And everything is just being pinned on the quarterback — it's not just him. Hackett has something to say about it. He loves Randall, he took Billy Turner with him to Denver and wanted him here. So, of course, you are going to want to surround a coach with people who feels are going to be able to plant the flag. That whole narrative of what people are trying to put on the quarterback I think is tired, but it's common practice in the NFL."
Saleh compared it to when he was first hired as head coach of the Jets when he had a list of players he wanted to try and acquire to help install the new systems. That group included CB D.J. Reed, G Laken Tomlinson, RB Tevin Coleman and LBs Kwon Alexander and Marcell Harris.
Serving as offensive coordinator in Green Bay from 2019-21, Hackett helped Rodgers earn back-to-back MVP honors in 2020-21 as the Pack finished top-10 in passing both years and led the NFL in scoring in 2020 while averaging 31.8 pts/g. Rodgers may be familiar with some of his current teammates from his previous chapter in Green Bay, but that does not give them a pass on the 2023 Jets.
"At the end of the day, the best 53 will be on the football team and the best 11 will be on the football field when it comes down to snapping the ball," Saleh said. "At the same time, the reason why we're excited to bring those guys in, they stand for everything we believe in. You look at Allen Lazard, he came in as an undrafted free agent and he has all this unbelievable ability to him, and he made himself. Randall has such an amazing amount of experience, Billy Turner has so much experience, but they're internally driven individuals who just want to win football games and they love the game of football. Why wouldn't you bring them in and help accelerate, plant the flag and echo the message that Nathaniel and his staff are trying to accomplish?"
Following an illustrious run in Wisconsin, Rodgers, the future Hall of Famer, has embraced the football at One Jets Drive and life in the big city. Since his arrival, he's attended a New York Rangers/New Jersey Devils playoff game at Madison Square Garden and two New York Knicks postseason contests. Most recently, Rodgers dined with CB Sauce Gardner at Carbone in Greenwich Village and then sat courtside with the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year near the likes of Jessica Alba and Spike Lee as the Knicks evened their series with the Miami Heat.
"He's soaking it up," Saleh said of Rodgers. "New York is different, obviously. I don't want to speak for him, but I think deep down, he's a big-city guy at heart, and I think he's been enjoying it. I know he was in absolute awe of Madison Square Garden, which I was, too, when I first went. It's probably the coolest stadium in all of sports. He's embracing it. He's been enjoying all of it. He is cool in the sense when he's in here — it's football. It's been good."
See the best photos of the Jets during the first week of phase two during optional offseason team workouts at 1 Jets Drive.