By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. (AP Pro Football Writer)
Aaron Rodgers’ debut season with the New York Jets is already over. It didn’t even last one quarter.
The 39-year-old quarterback has a torn left Achilles tendon that will require season-ending surgery, coach Robert Saleh announced Tuesday. The Jets placed Rodgers on the injured reserve list.
An MRI revealed the severity of the four-time NFL MVP’s injury, confirming what the Jets feared after their 22-16 overtime win over Buffalo on Monday night. Saleh said during a video call he was not immediately certain when the quarterback would have surgery.
Torn Achilles tendons typically take several months of recovery due to the extensive rehabilitation needed.
“I feel more for Aaron than anyone,” Saleh said. “He’s invested so much into this organization, so much into this journey that he’s embarked on and wanting to be a part of what we’ve got going here. And how much he’s invested in not only this organization, but his teammates, himself, this fan base, the city, so I have a lot of emotions for him.”
On his fourth regular-season snap in a Jets uniform, Rodgers tried to avoid a rushing Leonard Floyd, who wrapped up the quarterback and spun him down to the MetLife Stadium turf. Rodgers stood up after a few moments, looked over to the Jets’ sideline and then sat on the turf — seemingly knowing he was seriously hurt.
He needed help from trainers to get to the sideline, where he was taken to the blue medical tent to be examined. Rodgers then got on a cart to go to the locker room, hopped off near the tunnel and limped inside.
Zach Wilson replaced Rodgers just 3:45 into the game and finished 14 of 21 for 140 yards with a touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson and an interception in the victory.
The third-year quarterback will now start for the Jets on Sunday at Dallas — and the foreseeable future.
Saleh said third-stringer Tim Boyle would be promoted from the practice squad and the Jets would explore their options to find a backup quarterback.
“We are going to look through some things, but I do want to make it very clear: Zach’s our quarterback,” Saleh said. “We’ve got a lot of faith in Zach. We’re really excited about his opportunity, but we’re rolling with Zach and and excited for this and excited for him.”
Wilson praised the work Rodgers did with him during the offseason and training camp, helping him feel “a lot more prepared” to take the next step in his development.
“The hardest part is now putting it into a game and I’ve got to be able to do that,” Wilson said Monday night. “Going into this week, it’s applying everything that he’s kind of helped walk us through and being able to watch him and the coaches, how they’ve handled this offense. I’ve got to be able to handle that efficiently.”
Rodgers, who spent his first 18 seasons with Green Bay, was acquired by the Jets in April and immediately raised expectations for the frustrated franchise.
He gave the Jets their most accomplished quarterback since Brett Favre, who was acquired from Green Bay in 2008 — clearing the way for Rodgers to become the Packers’ signal caller.
Rodgers, who repeatedly has said he won’t be one-and-done with the Jets, agreed in July to a restructured contract that gives him $75 million in fully guaranteed money over this season and next.
But now, he’ll have to focus on a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation process, which could make his playing future uncertain.
Saleh expects Rodgers to continue to remain with the team and help throughout the rest of the season.
“I think I speak for everyone in the organization, we all want him here,” Saleh said. “We all want him to be connected, and I think he wants to be here.”
The situation evoked eerily similar memories of 1999, when Vinny Testaverde — who, coincidentally, was the Jets’ honorary captain Monday night — ruptured his Achilles tendon early in New York’s season opener against New England.
Like this year’s squad, those Jets had Super Bowl aspirations after going to the AFC championship game the previous season. New York instead finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
Rodgers’ injury brought up some debate in football circles as to whether the playing surface was a contributing factor. Saleh said he didn’t think it was because it wasn’t a noncontact injury. MetLife Stadium has been criticized for its turf the last few years because of several noncontact injuries, but the playing surface was replaced before this season.
With Rodgers out for the season, New York will not give up a first-round draft pick to Green Bay next year as part of the trade’s terms. It will remain a second-round pick that could have become a first-rounder if Rodgers had played 65% of the Jets’ plays this season.
The Packers also received the 13th overall pick, a second-rounder and a sixth-rounder in this year’s draft in exchange for Rodgers, the No. 15 overall pick and a fifth-rounder this year.
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