FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Aaron Rodgers‘ first hiccup as a member of the New York Jets occurred Tuesday — a minor calf strain that kept him out of practice. Other than that, the quarterback is having a blast on his new team.
“It’s been like a dream month so far,” said Rodgers, who was traded by the Green Bay Packers on April 24.
Rodgers, who has been participating in voluntary workouts — something he didn’t do in recent years with the Packers — said there are no doubts in his mind that he made the right decision by continuing his career and opting to play for the Jets.
Every day, he said, is an affirmation of that.
“Every day I wake up excited about coming to the facility,” Rodgers said after practice, addressing the media for the first time since his introductory news conference April 26. “Now the commute being two minutes really helps. Just rolling out of bed and heading to the facility is nice.
“I have an excitement about coming down Jets Drive. It was surreal, for sure, and strange to look at my locker and see No. 8. Rocking Jets gear is a little bit strange, for sure, but every day there’s been a little special sign or synchronicity or cool moment that reminds me I’m in the right place.”
He said he likes New Jersey. Before the trade, he associated the state with the old TV show “Jersey Shore.” He has since been assured the show “is not a proper representation of this great state.”
Rodgers, 39, attracted a huge media turnout for the first open practice — the team’s second OTA session. He didn’t participate in any drills. Rodgers said he “tweaked” his right calf during pre-practice conditioning and decided to sit out practice. A “veteran’s day,” he called it.
“I don’t think it’s too serious,” he added.
The injury appeared to happen while he was hopping with a small medicine ball — one of the quirky exercises they do to warm up before practice. Rodgers wouldn’t confirm that, saying only that it occurred while he was running. He noted that it was the first time in his 19-year career that he warmed up in such a weird fashion.
“Obviously, there’s science behind it,” he said.
Rodgers remained on the field for the duration of practice, a strong indication that it wasn’t a significant injury. He walked slowly from drill to drill, giving occasional pointers to the quarterbacks and pass-catchers. He wasn’t wearing a sleeve on his injured calf during his post-practice news conference.
“He’s the GOAT,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “It’s nice to have that presence, for sure.”
Breaking with his recent past, Rodgers said he decided to attend voluntary workouts to help offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett install the offense and to get acclimated with his new teammates.
“When you’ve been in the offense for a long time, the offseason is really for the young players,” said Rodgers, alluding to his Green Bay days. “But with a new offense, being my first year here, I wanted to be around for at least some of the beginning things, just to let them know how I like to do things, some of the code words, little adjustments, different ways I see the game, sparking conversation.”
Rodgers said “the worst thing” in a meeting is when a coach does all the talking, with no interaction from players. He said he wants to be present to help create free-flowing conversation.
“Meetings is where we feel his presence the most,” Uzomah said.
Coach Robert Saleh said Rodgers is “still a kid in an old man’s body. He’s having a blast.” Cornerback D.J. Reed said Rodgers has single-handedly raised the energy level in the building. Reed recalled their first meeting.
“When I saw him, I was like, ‘Dang, that’s really AR. He’s really a Jet,'” Reed said. “It was kind of surreal. It’s a crazy feeling, knowing we’re going to have a Hall of Fame quarterback playing for us this year. It’s pretty dope.”
One of Rodgers’ potential protectors, tackle Mekhi Becton, created a stir Sunday with critical comments about the coaching staff. In a Newsday interview, Becton blamed the coaching staff for his knee injury last August, saying the move to right tackle put additional stress on his already-repaired right knee and caused a second injury that required surgery.
Saying he doesn’t want to get into finger-pointing, Saleh took the high road, commending Becton on an “unbelievable” offseason. His weight is under 350, a drop of 50-plus pounds.
“He’s in a real good place,” Saleh said, “and I want to keep him there.”