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Notebook | Former Teammate Kurt Benkert in Awe of Aaron Rodgers' 'Hidden Attributes'

Reunited: Former Ravens O-Linemen Morgan Moses and John Simpson Together Again with Jets


As a 20-something quarterback signed by the Green Bay Packers ahead of the 2021 NFL season, Kurt Benkert will be the first to admit that his initial encounter with Aaron Rodgers was a bit unique.

"Going in for camp, I got into the bathroom and he's walking up right next to me at a urinal," Benkert said. "It was my first time meeting him. He knew my face, he's my childhood favorite player. I didn't expect to meet this way. It was a funny moment. He enjoys stuff like that. We only made eye contact the whole time!"

Over four professional seasons (after a collegiate career at East Carolina and Virginia) Benkert signed with Atlanta as an undrafted free agent bounced from the practice squad to injured reserve to the practice squad without ever appearing in a game. He landed in Green Bay for a season, taking a grand total of two snaps (both kneel-downs) in a December game. Then off to San Francisco for another stint on a practice squad.

He's gone on to a different career, working for the fantasy football app Sleeper, has signed on with a professional gaming team and also launched the "Pocket Presence" show on YouTube in which he teaches about the intricacies of the game using the Madden NFL video game.

"Our relationship grew so fast -- he appreciated that I was not just 24/7 football," Benkert told Eric Allen on this week's edition of "The Official Jets’ Podcast." "It was important for me to have balance in my life, I do know how to disconnect. He's had experience with guys who don't know how to do that. He has things outside football he's interested in and from the beginning I'm not trying to ask him football questions all the time. We had common interests outside football. He knew I was into gaming, he was playing Halo and that was our first connection. He loved that I wasn't afraid to speak my mind in the media. That's how I've always been, and he appreciated that."

Though he's 12 years Rodgers' junior and they were only teammates for a heartbeat, in NFL terms, Benkert (28) offered valuable insights about the four-time NFL MVP who is returning from a torn Achilles tendon that derailed his -- and the Jets season -- only four snaps into the opener last Sept. 11.

"I almost cried," Benkert said about watching Rodgers crumple to the MetLife Stadium turf. "I felt my stomach sink."

He added: "This year again looks like a good opportunity, the defense should be better and the offense, I just think he's going to play well. The Achilles doesn't affect his style as much as other guys. He's a scrambler, but he doesn't scramble to run, he scrambles to get out of a space and doesn't need that extra burst to change a game. He just needs to evade that first guy, he has enough to make a guy miss, to play in his frame his precision passing game isn't going to change."

So what does Aaron Rodgers bring to the table?

"There is not a look he has not seen," Benkert said. "When you've been in it that long, you don't have to study film as long. He knows what he's looking for. He's not just watching [all the film], he's looking at third downs, red zone, special situations breaking the game down specifically. What are they [opposing defenses] doing that's in his tool bag?

"He's not wasting as much time on things that don't matter. A guy who has been in every situation possible can bring guys into the huddle and tell them 'this is what to expect.'

"When you have that type of guy leading the way, there's just these types of hidden attributes that level up everyone on the team. Everybody plays better when you have a guy like that."

Morgan Moses: 'Truly Happy to Be Back in New York'
A funny thing happened on the way back to the Jets from Baltimore for offensive lineman Morgan Moses.

"I went from texting Derrick Henry [who had signed with the Ravens] on Tuesday night to finding out on Wednesday around noon that I was being traded," Moses told reporters Wednesday morning. "Literally, I had no idea what was taking place, but I'm truly happy to be back in New York."

The veteran right tackle, who began his NFL career with Washington in 2014, played in all 17 games in his first go-round with the Jets in 2021. After two seasons with the Ravens, he's back with the Green & White as a big part of the team's revamped and retooled offensive line.

He was asked what, if anything, was different in his return to Florham Park.

"It's not really a weird feeling," he said. "I've truly been a fan of Coach [Robert] Saleh since I got there the first time. We were rookies at the Jets the same year. I got to learn about him as a first-time head coach and was always excited for him. He's energetic and has that defense flying around and any time you have a top-five defense in this league and a quarterback [Aaron Rodgers] who's a true future Hall of Famer, you always have opportunities to win games. I just look forward to getting in the building and getting to work."

Moses, 33, said that after Week 4 last season, he played the rest of the way with a torn pectoral muscle and only had surgery six weeks ago. "I learned how to manage," he said, adding, "I'm looking forward to having two arms this year."

He's looking forward to playing on the revamped O-line, probably with Alijah Vera-Tucker at right guard, second-year man Joe Tippmann at center and free-agent additions Tryon Smith and John Simpson on the left side.

"It's not just the O-line, look at the makeup of what Saleh and [GM] Joe Douglas have done, signing [WR Mike] Williams and [John] Simpson, the O-line and the other pieces they have. For me, it looks good on paper. For the O-line, it's five equals one, our job is to work together and when we get out there hit the ground running and have the same mindset, bringing a certain mentality to the room, helping the guys and getting in a groove as quickly as possible."

Asked if he'll be ready for training camp, Moses said. "One-hundred percent."

John Simpson: Blocking for 'the GOAT, Aaron Rodgers'
After signing with the Jets in free agency, left guard John Simpson said he is ready for yet another "new beginning."

After playing three years with the Raiders, Simpson said he fell out of favor with a new coaching regime, starting in only two games in the 2022 season before being waived late in the season.

"I felt like it was a new beginning [in Baltimore]," he told reporters Wednesday morning. "I was drafted and was with the Raiders there three years, but there was a new staff and they had their guys. They didn't really want me there and I lost my confidence along the way. When the Ravens picked me up, it was a fresh start to show myself and I created a new identity for myself. It's what I needed. It paid off, helped a lot and was really big for me."

After signing with the Jets, he said he sought out Morgan Moses for a quick rundown and "not long after he was up here with me."

Moses praised his past and current teammate for remaking his body in the 2023 offseason and then putting together a solid season in which he played in and started all 17 regular-season games for the Ravens.

"He came in that offseason and changed his body and mindset," Moses said. "He knew on Day 1 of camp there was an opening at left guard and he took that head on. You could tell from Day 1 that it was his job."

Simpson said coming to the Jets has afforded him a pair of unique opportunities.

"It's New York first of all," he said. "I just feel like I've always been a fan of the underdogs and last year the Jets were an underdog in every game and I want to be a part of something like that, I want to be part of building something. The underdog mentality is what I really enjoy."

He added: "And it's crazy, I was telling someone that my grandkids won't believe me when I tell them that I blocked for Lamar [Jackson] and the GOAT Aaron Rodgers. It's going to be a lot of fun."

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