Aaron Rodgers’ much-anticipated New York Jets debut got off to quite possibly the worst start imaginable. The prized trade acquisition played all of four snaps before crumpling on-field shortly after taking a sack, ultimately being carted off the field with what would later be diagnosed as a torn Achilles.
The Jets officially placed Rodgers on injured reserve (IR) today, which most presume will mark the end of his 2023 NFL season. But the star QB introduced a surprising sliver of doubt during a recent appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.
Aaron Rodgers Not Ruling Out Return?
As noted, Rodgers did his first public interview since the injury on the former pro punter’s popular podcast (alliteration!), and it predictably did not take long before the subject turned to his playing future. The 39-year-old made it clear that he has no intentions of calling it a career just yet, as per NBC Sports.
— NYJ Matt (@NYJ_Matt) September 15, 2023
“I think what I’d like to say is give me the doubts,” Rodgers said. “Give me the timetables, give me all the things that you think can, should, or will happen because all I need is that extra one percent of inspiration. That’s all I need. Give me your prognostications, and then watch what I do.”
The Athletic and Inside Injuries’ Greg Scholz collaborated on an interesting look at the circumstances of Rodgers’ injury and what sort of recovery timeline he’s looking at.
Of course, there’s a wide degree of variance depending on the individual — including factors like age and intensity of the rehab process — but Scholz projects Rodgers to be recovered in approximately four to six months.
Rodgers has evidently done some research on the injury himself, telling McAfee he’d seen some “interesting timetables” regarding recovery times for the injury he endured. McAfee asked the logical follow-up, inquiring if Rodgers had hopes of suiting up again this season.
Pat McAfee: "Are you coming back for the playoffs this year?"
Aaron Rodgers: "I'm not gonna make any of those statements. I don't feel like that's fair to myself… As Kevin Garnett said, 'Anything is possible!'" 👀
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) September 15, 2023
“Anything’s possible. . . . I’m gonna try to push this thing as much as it’ll allow me to,” Rodgers said.
That’s hardly a declarative statement. Rodgers knows he’s got an uphill climb. But he also knows he’s got a better than non-zero chance, and he’s choosing to chase that chance, no matter how minute, until it’s no longer an option.
Now, even if Rodgers is recovered enough to play four months from now, he’s still looking at a mid-January return date. That means his Jets will likely need to qualify for the playoffs in order for him to suit up again this season.
That’s a tough proposition in a loaded AFC, especially with Zach Wilson at quarterback. But the Jets just barely missed the postseason a year ago with the much-maligned former BYU product under center. And he’s said to have improved under Rodgers’ guidance in the offseason.
New York returns a loaded defense, spearheaded by standout defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and shutdown cornerback Sauce Gardner. Other playmakers, like linebacker Quincy Williams and safety Jordan Whitehead, look poised to feast off the attention those two draw.
Even elite pass blockers can't stop Quinnen Williams right now. Bills center Mitch Morse entered Sunday with a 16-game streak of no sacks allowed. Quinnen put an end to that. pic.twitter.com/yCDfdftOnY
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) November 7, 2022
GARRETT WILSON WITH THE TOUCHDOWN OF THE SEASON IN WEEK 1. HOLY SMOKES!!!pic.twitter.com/eB03x8iJ8N
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 12, 2023
Add in an imposing backfield duo of Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook, a four-deep receiving corps spearheaded by second-year standout Garrett Wilson, and a middle-of-the-pack offensive line, and the Jets have enough talent to stay afloat even without Rodgers.
Look at their opener against another AFC contender, the Buffalo Bills, as a testament to that.
Whether or not the Jets pay that potential off remains to be seen, but they figure to be good enough to keep Rodgers’ comeback hopes — however far-fetched they might seem — alive.