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Saturday June 3rd, 2023 11:48AM

Aaron Rodgers strains calf during warmups, sits out first Jets practice open to media

By The Associated Press
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers never made it past warmups in his first New York Jets practice in front of the media.

The 39-year-old quarterback, acquired last month from Green Bay, strained a calf while participating in conditioning drills Tuesday. Rodgers watched quarterback drills and remained on the field during practice, but was without his helmet and threw no passes.

“I don't think it's too serious,” Rodgers said, downplaying the injury and saying he took “a vet day.”

He didn't have a noticeable limp, but stretched his lower legs and ankles several times throughout the practice. Rodgers, who wasn't wearing a wrap on either calf while he stood at the podium and spoke to reporters, was uncertain when the injury occurred.

“I dunno,” he said with a smile. “Just running, I guess.”

Organized team activities began Monday and Rodgers participated in practice, with the Jets tweeting photos and videos of the quarterback throwing passes. The session Tuesday marked the first with media in attendance, and a few dozen reporters showed up to watch Rodgers practice with the Jets for the first time.

That will have to wait until next Wednesday at the earliest, when practice is next open to the media.

New York acquired Rodgers, the No. 15 overall pick and a fifth-rounder in this year’s draft from Green Bay on April 26. In exchange, the Packers got the 13th overall selection, a second-rounder, a sixth-rounder and a conditional 2024 second-round pick that could become a first-rounder if Rodgers plays 65% of New York’s plays this season.

The four-time NFL MVP spent his first 18 seasons in Green Bay and contemplated retirement before going on a darkness retreat in Oregon in February. Rodgers emerged wanting to continue to play — and chose to do so with the Jets. That set in motion the deal to New York.

Since the trade, Rodgers has experienced several moments that have reaffirmed his decision.

“It was surreal, for sure, and strange to look at my locker and see the No. 8, and to be rocking Jets gear is a little bit strange, for sure,” he said. "But every day, there's been something that's kind of been a little special sign or a synchronicity or just a cool moment that reminds me that I'm in the right place.”

Rodgers has participated in voluntary workouts and practices with his new teammates, something he didn't consistently do the past three offseasons in Green Bay.

“He’s still a kid in an old man’s body," coach Robert Saleh joked. "He’s having a blast.”

With the Jets, Rodgers is reunited with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who led the Packers' offense during the quarterback's last two MVP seasons in 2020 and 2021. There are also several other familiar faces on the field with Rodgers, including wide receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb and offensive lineman Billy Turner. But Rodgers is also building a rapport with many new players and helping Hackett install the offense.

“I really wanted to be around, at least for some of the beginning things, to just let them know kind of how I like to do things,” Rodgers said. “Some of the code words, some of the little adjustments, some of the ways I see the game — just sparking the conversation.”

Rodgers' presence has fired up many of his new teammates, who acknowledged being a bit starstruck when the quarterback first arrived.

“It's lit, man,” cornerback D.J. Reed said of the energy around the team.

Saleh has particularly enjoyed watching Rodgers work and interact with the players and coaches.

“It's been cool,” Saleh said. “I joke around that he's closer to a coach than he is a player at this point of his career. He's a fantastic mind, he's a fantastic conversation. It's been all positive.”

While the work on the field and in meetings has been good, Rodgers appreciates the “freedom of expression” Saleh allows players to have, balancing fun and accountability.

Rodgers has also liked getting to know his new surroundings — from taking in Knicks and Rangers playoff games to learning where he can find the team's mail room. He also joked the only things he previously knew about New Jersey were Teterboro Airport and the show “Jersey Shore.”

“I was assured that was not a proper representation of this great state,” a grinning Rodgers said before later adding: "I mean, it's been like a dream month so far.”

NOTES: All-Pro DT Quinnen Williams isn’t participating in voluntary workouts while he awaits a contract extension. Saleh isn’t concerned it could turn into a lingering issue. “That thing will get done,” the coach said. ... RB Breece Hall and OT Mekhi Becton, both returning from knee injuries last year, aren’t practicing yet. OL Alijah Vera-Tucker (torn triceps) is practicing. ... Becton told Newsday he partly blamed the coaching staff for his season-ending knee injury last summer because they insisted he play right tackle instead of left — and that put extra pressure on his already surgically repaired right knee. Saleh took the high road, saying he didn’t want to get into finger pointing.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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