FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey — Aaron Rodgers’ season is over. There’s also some doubt as to whether his career might be, too.
Well, not in the mind of New York Jets coach Robert Saleh.
“I haven’t gone down that road with him,” the coach said Wednesday. “I mean, I’d be shocked if this is the way he’s going to go out. But at the same time, for him, he’s working through a whole lot of head space, things that he needs to deal with.
“That will be the last thing I talk to him about.”
But it will surely be a conversation to be had with the 39-year-old quarterback, who tore his left Achilles tendon on his fourth snap in his debut with the Jets on Monday night in a 22-16 overtime win over Buffalo.
Saleh said Rodgers is currently going for some medical consultations to determine his next step, which will include surgery.
Rodgers is facing a long, arduous recovery and rehabilitation from the injury. He turns 40 in December and had considered retirement before coming out of a self-reflective darkness retreat in February and saying he intended to continue to play – and wanted it to be with the Jets.
His trade to New York from Green Bay in April raised expectations for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 12 years, to the point there were high hopes for a run at a Super Bowl. Now, Rodgers won’t be able to contribute on the field the rest of this season, but the Jets hope he’ll still help the team end its postseason drought by staying connected to his teammates and coaches.
“It’s important for him, his mental health and healing,” Saleh said. “But his presence, his words, his verbiage, like I’ve said, he’s as much a football coach as he is a player. And just having his presence, his thoughts, his words and his leadership, I think anybody would want that.”
The Jets are turning back to Zach Wilson to replace Rodgers after the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft struggled mightily during his first two seasons – prompting New York to pursue a franchise-lifting signal caller.
Saleh and the Jets insist Wilson has improved since last season, and in large part because of his time the past several months with Rodgers.
“He’s got a lot of self confidence right now,” Saleh said of Wilson. “The easy stuff doesn’t look hard anymore. I mean, he gets back there and he does the fundamental things so well. His footwork is unbelievable.”
Wilson was shaky at times when he replaced Rodgers, finishing 14 of 21 for 140 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But he’ll get a week of practices – although it’s a bit of a short week after the Monday night game – to take the snaps as the starter and prepare to face the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday.
And the Jets aren’t necessarily expecting him to be a Rodgers replica.
“Nobody does,” Saleh said. “He just needs to be him. Nobody needs to think they need to go all-world now. You just need to be yourself. Just trust that yourself is good enough.”
As for his overall message to his players, who have to deal with trying to move forward after losing Rodgers, Saleh said there really isn’t much more to say.
“Nobody cares that you’ve lost a player,” Saleh said. “And at the end of the day, Sunday’s coming and we’ve got to put our best foot forward and do everything we can to put ourselves in a position to be successful. That’s the harsh part of the business, but I think guys understand that.”
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