FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Aaron Rodgers placed a hand over each of his hips as he pedaled.
The New York Jets quarterback wore a black sleeve over his right calf, cycling through his rehabilitation routine on a stationary bike overlooking the practice fields that his teammates canvassed.
He’d eventually progress into flat-footed throws with a staff member, Rodgers and his catch partner distancing themselves from one another progressively until Rodgers was throwing what appeared to be an effortless flat-footed 50-yard spiral, his arm and torque clearly unimpaired by what he described as a “tweak” to his calf eight days prior.
Rodgers would not physically participate in practice Wednesday even as he remained visually and verbally engaged, often at the side of head coach Robert Saleh or quarterback Zach Wilson, pointing to areas of the field to deliver his teaching point.
Was this a real-time demonstration of the acquisition whom defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich describes as “constantly giving us feedback” and “as inclusive as I’ve ever been around, especially for a player of that caliber”?
Rodgers' calf, too, warranted good news. Saleh insisted his quarterback was "fine and just doing a bunch of rehab" on Wednesday before activating the plan "to ease him back in" to full participation on Friday and into next week.
So all, for the most part, was well around the Jets facility Wednesday. Even as an eye-opening story with a bevy of on-the-record quotes from Rodgers sent echoes across the rest of the NFL world – and particularly, the club Rodgers played 18 years for in Green Bay.
New details emerge in Rodgers-Packers acrimony
Rodgers did not refute, in conversation with The Athletic's Matt Schneidman, the narrative that he sought the firing of Packers general manager in Brian Gutekunst in 2021. He simply deferred comment on that matter to his agent, Dave Dunn, while later describing his strained communication with Gutenkust in part by saying, "I talk to the people that I like."
Rodgers scoffed at the notion that he was wholly uncommunicative this spring with the Packers front office, conceding that Gutenkust texted him more than the quarterback texted “but did I ghost him? No.”
“I texted him back,” Rodgers told The Athletic. “There was back-and-forths that we had and so this is the story you wanna go with? You’re gonna stand on this hill of austerity and say that arguably in the conversation of the best player in your franchise history, you’re gonna say I couldn’t get a hold of him and that’s why we had to move on?
“Like, c’mon man. Just tell the truth, you wanted to move on.”
The feature detailed the strain that followed the Packers selecting quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Rodgers questioned how sincerely the Packers worked to keep All-Pro receiver Davante Adams in the building last year before Adams ultimately was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders on March 17, 2022 – a mere day after the Packers confirmed Rodgers' final contract extension.
Rodgers appeared to find catharsis in sharing his deep if chaotic side of this story.
His new team – and even he, externally, days removed from giving an interview that published Wednesday morning – wasn't fazed.
Rodgers seemed unbothered as he biked alongside his best friend and teammate for most of the last 13 years, wide receiver Randall Cobb.
He looked at peace as he strolled physically and mentally in lockstep with Saleh, acting on his rest day like some combination of coach or, as Saleh would say it, a “flag bearer” setting the tone and educating teammates on both sides of the ball.
Rodgers seemed focused as he watched 7-on-7 drills from about 20 yards away as Wilson escaped the makeshift pocket, scrambled to his left and found wide receiver Diontae Spencer in the end zone.
Celebrating the touchdown, Rodgers clapped.
“His impact on this team and especially these younger players,” Ulbrich said, “is going to be felt for the remainder of all their careers.”
Rodgers making early personal, professional impressions on Jets
How Rodgers and the Jets will handle regular-season adversity remains to be seen.
But during the honeymoon phase of spring workouts, his new franchise is happily wed.
Veteran left tackle Duane Brown marveled at the “hold” Rodgers has on an offense that he already knows from three seasons with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in Green Bay. Brown anchored the Seattle Seahawks’ left tackle spot as Russell Wilson earned four straight Pro Bowl berths. Still, watching Rodgers pop into offensive line meetings and weigh in on pre-snap tricks left Brown with the impression that “just the command that he has of everything, it’s different.”
Ulbrich agreed, eager to test new schematic wrinkles against a quarterback who will expose any and every weakness during training camp, a quarterback whom he says will capitalize if the defense is off by even a tick. The defensive coordinator’s early conversations with Rodgers have prompted Ulbrich to begin creating cutups of film for the two to compare viewpoints – beginning with the Jets-Packers game during which they faced off last season.
And then there’s the early personal impressions Rodgers is leaving, second-year running back Breece Hall smiling about the pizza and playoff hockey they bonded over during a trip to New York City that also included quarterback Tim Boyle, receiver Allen Lazard and offensive guard Connor McGovern. Hall referenced inside jokes he already has with his quarterback despite barely one month as teammates and a more than 17-and-a-half-year age gap.
“He’s a jokester,” Hall said. “He’s actually really cool, really funny. Me and him, actually we make fun of each other a lot.”
Neither Hall nor anyone in the Jets organization mentioned nor seemed concerned Wednesday about the Rodgers grievances aired anew that morning. Could this dichotomy be part of Rodgers putting finishing touches on his Packers chapter as he settles into his new post with the Jets? Could the weights, even some self-imposed, be lifting?
“Can you imagine being somewhere for 18 years and then going somewhere else?” Cobb asked. “Something different, new environment, new people, different situation. It sparks something different in you. And I think you can definitely see that in his face.
“That freshness brings something different to you.”