How quarterback Aaron Rodgers is putting his stamp on the Jets


FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets‘ training facility is 224,000 square feet. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, in 108 days since his ballyhooed arrival, has made his presence felt in every corner of the building.

The locker room. The weight room. The cafeteria. The classroom.

The team’s most accomplished player since Brett Favre in 2008, Rodgers has captivated the organization with … well, being himself. The newness hasn’t worn off, and everything the 39-year-old quarterback does — from reading defenses to reciting old-school hip-hop lyrics — leaves an impression. Even the seemingly mundane moments get amplified and talked about among the players.

“In the locker room, we talk about it: It’s like watching Kobe [Bryant] or Michael Jordan work in football,” defensive tackle Solomon Thomas said. “The details he puts in, how he commands the offense, it’s insane watching him play.”

Here’s an Aaron Rodgers photo album, if you will, with behind-the-scenes snapshots from OTAs until now:

Rodgers likes things a certain way, and he believes part of his job with the Jets is making sure his teammates know that way.

One day, he explained to center Connor McGovern a pass-protection adjustment he likes to call against a certain blitz. It came with a demonstration.

Making like an offensive lineman, Rodgers got down in a pass set and executed the footwork for the play. His technique was flawless, according to McGovern, who was blown away.

“I’ve never seen a quarterback do an offensive lineman’s footwork,” McGovern said. “He knows it down to that detail — not only what we’re going to do, but what our technique should look like. Perfect steps. Wow, that’s crazy.”

Rodgers doesn’t hang with the same group of players in the cafeteria. He’s always on the move, making sure he sits with different teammates at each meal. It could be the wide receivers at breakfast, the rookies at lunch — that sort of rotation. Players have heard him turn down invitations, saying he needed to spend time with another group.

His goal is to build relationships.

“That’s huge, especially from a [future] Hall of Fame guy,” tight end Tyler Conklin said. “That goes a long way for a lot of people.”

Linebacker Quincy Williams was working out in the weight room when he heard Rodgers talking about hip-hop.

“He’s like, ‘Play this, play that,'” Williams said, smiling. “I’m like, ‘How do you know that song?'”

Williams said it’s “surprising” that Rodgers knows so much about hip-hop.

“Yeah, I am [a hip-hop fan] — ’90s, though,” said Rodgers, mentioning Tupac Shakur, Warren G, Notorious B.I.G., Mase and Snoop Dogg.

And the Chico, California, native unsurprisingly said he prefers “the West Coast guys.”

On the first day of training camp, Rodgers was barking signals when he noticed a safety creeping toward the line of scrimmage for a possible blitz. He had fun with it, calling out the safety and daring him to come. So much for that disguise by the defense.

It has been a long time since the Jets had a quarterback with that kind of chutzpah. Coach Robert Saleh said he loves the way Rodgers “messes with the defense. … It makes me laugh. He’s a coach that can still play football.”

Defensive end Carl Lawson is a craftsman when it comes to rushing the passer. He’s always studying tape, looking to create countermoves for his repertoire. He hatches a plan and takes it to the practice field for testing, except it has been tough this summer.

Because Rodgers delivers the ball so fast.

“Sometimes I’m not even getting out of my stance,” Lawson said. “It’s like, ‘Whoosh! Did the play happen already?'”

In his fourth MVP season, 2021, Rodgers averaged 2.63 seconds from snap to pass, the fourth-quickest release time in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.

Fellow defensive end John Franklin-Myers also has found facing Rodgers frustrating at times. The defense has to change its signals because he deciphers them so quickly and calls out the plays. One day, Rodgers was so successful in anticipating line stunts that Franklin-Myers had to ask his secret.

Foot placement, Rodgers explained. He noticed how the defensive linemen were shifting their feet before the snap.

“It keeps us honest,” Franklin-Myers said.

Rodgers usually is all business in the classroom. He’s so intense that he sometimes calls on teammates, asking them to explain specifics about certain plays. Players have said it keeps them on their toes; they don’t want to disappoint their quarterback.

But sometimes learning can be fun.

Passing-game coordinator Todd Downing, with help from instructional designer John Vieira, uses “Jeopardy!” style questions to test the quarterbacks on various facets of the offense. That’s in Rodgers’ wheelhouse. He’s a “Jeopardy!” fan who has guest hosted the show, which he describes as a life highlight. He also has won playing “Celebrity Jeopardy!” In Downing’s classroom version of the quiz show, he uses pictures of Rodgers on the big screen.

“Some of these kids haven’t seen any of the ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ stuff,” Rodgers said, grinning. “We’re making references about [former host] Alex Trebek and Sean Connery [from “Saturday Night Live” spoofs of “Celebrity Jeopardy!”], and they have no idea who even Sean Connery is. So it’s a great learning experience, some of the pop culture for the young guys.”

Rodgers is like a point guard in transition. When he sees a vulnerability in the defense, he adjusts on the fly and fires a quick pass, sometimes a no-look. He expects his receivers to see the game as he does and be ready for the ball.

In a recent practice, Rodgers changed the play at the line when he noticed safety Ashtyn Davis lining up as a linebacker, creating an eight-man box. Rodgers communicated the audible with the help of hand signals, took a quick drop and fired a 7-yard slant to wide receiver Mecole Hardman Jr., who slipped a tackle and blew past the safety for a 79-yard touchdown.

“Aaron is a tricky guy when it comes to certain things … tricky as in, he’ll throw it when you think he’s not throwing it, especially the no-looks,” Hardman said.

The Jets hold evening walk-throughs. The players are hot and tired after long days, so it’s easy for minds to wander. They’d rather be in an air-conditioned hotel room than a deserted practice field.

This setting, players say, is where Rodgers is the most focused.

Few things irk him more than wasted reps in a walk-through, so he tries to keep everyone on edge. Sometimes he will deviate from the script by calling a play they ran two months ago in OTAs, testing their attentiveness and recall.

“The best players are the smartest players,” Rodgers said. “So anytime we’re on that field, whether it’s a half-line walk-through or a full 11-on-11 play, they should be playing with their brains turned on.”

Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley is like Rodgers in that he values the walk-throughs. “The best part of camp,” Mosley said. He likes them because there’s a heavy emphasis on the cerebral aspect to the game, so they invariably turn into chess matches. Rodgers makes the pre-snap checks for the offense; Mosley makes them for the defense.

One evening, Mosley recognized the offensive formation and called out the play. Rodgers looked directly at him.

“What did you say?” an incredulous Rodgers asked from across the line of scrimmage.

Mosley thought he had one-upped the 19-year veteran — until Rodgers changed the play at the last second. Mosley, marveling at Rodgers’ savvy, thought to himself, “That’s different right there.”

Looking back, Mosley called that cat-and-mouse instance “one of the coolest things I’ve seen so far” in training camp.

Another seemingly mundane moment that seems bigger with Rodgers at quarterback.


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