FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose offseason began with trade rumors and his celebrated darkness retreat, ended it Friday with perfect attendance and a bright outlook for his first season with the New York Jets.
“The last six weeks have been about the most fun I’ve had in a while,” Rodgers said after the Jets’ final OTA practice.
The Jets, who cancelled next week’s mandatory minicamp, now begin a six-week break before training camp.
Rodgers, who skipped voluntary practices in recent years with the Green Bay Packers, attended all 10 OTA sessions. He didn’t participate in a few early practices because of a strained right calf, but he showed up every day and was a vocal presence on the field and in meetings. He ended Friday’s practice on a positive note — a completion to wide receiver Garrett Wilson.
Initially, Rodgers had planned to return to his home in California before the end of OTAs to work with his personal trainers, but he decided it was best to rehab his calf injury at the team facility. He said the extra time in New Jersey was beneficial for different reasons.
“It made for a lot of opportunities for some get togethers in the city, obviously Taylor Swift concert,” he said. “We had some good team dinners and a lot of hangout time, so that was good.
“The on-the-field stuff was really important as we start to work through some of the adjustments and signals and just kind of being the other voice in the room with Hack (offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett) in the installs and in the quarterback room.”
Hackett, the offensive coordinator, said the offense is “far away” from where it needs to be. Told of Hackett’s quote, Rodgers smiled.
“That’s coach talk,” he said. “I like where we’re at and I appreciate, as every player does, that Rob (Saleh) cut the last week.”
The Jets face the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 3 in the Hall-of-Fame Game, which means an earlier reporting date for training camp — the main reason why Saleh cancelled minicamp.
Rodgers, acquired April 24 in a blockbuster trade, said he’d like to schedule informal workouts on the West Coast with the receivers and other quarterbacks during the break. He said wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who missed the offseason due to core-muscle surgery, already has expressed an interest in participating.
Quarterback Zach Wilson organized it last offseason — he hosted about a dozen teammates at a resort in Idaho — but a lot has changed since then. Wilson, replaced by Rodgers, is now the No. 2 quarterback.
Addressing the media for the first time since the end of the season, Wilson — the No. 2 overall pick in 2021 — was upbeat and relaxed as he discussed the Rodgers trade and its impact on his career trajectory.
“Yeah, I mean, of course, I would like to be the guy, so at first you’re not always happy about that,” he said, recalling his reaction to the trade. “But I’m extremely psyched that, out of any quarterback you could’ve brought in, it was him.”
Wilson said Jets officials were transparent during the process, adding, “I can’t be bitter with the situation. I didn’t perform well and you have to take situations as they come.”
Well before the trade, Wilson went to Southern California to visit Rodgers, whom he has described as a childhood idol. They had a pre-existing friendship, so he went to Rodgers’ house to hang out and talked a little ball. After that, the Rodgers-Jets rumors intensified.
Wilson has received praise from coaches and teammates on the way he has handled the demotion, with Saleh saying, “I give him a ton of credit. … It’s very humbling to be in his shoes right now.”
Wilson agreed, saying he was humbled by two disappointing seasons as the starter. He believes learning from Rodgers, who he called an ideal mentor, will benefit his career in the long run.
“I think right now I’m having a ton of fun, more fun than I’ve had,” he said. “And I think that’s just the quarterback room, being with Aaron. I think it’s feeling like every single day there’s so much to learn. It’s like every day I just learned 10 different things about playing quarterback position.”
In other developments, the Jets have a preliminary interest in free-agent running back Dalvin Cook, according to Saleh, who said, “We’ll turn the stones over on that one.” He deferred to general manager Joe Douglas, adding, “I’m not sure how the money works on that.”
The Jets have approximately $24 million in cap room, but they may not want to splurge for a running back.