As Aaron Rodgers slowly crumpled to the turf at MetLife Stadium on Monday night, a collective groan arose from the long-suffering New York Jets fanbase.
The future Hall of Fame quarterback and would-be franchise savior sustained what appears to be a serious injury only four snaps into his first game with the Jets, after 18 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
After a preseason that started with heavy media attention and Super Bowl aspirations, Rodgers did not return after being helped off the field less than four minutes into the opening game.
New York rallied for a thrilling 22-16 overtime victory over the rival Buffalo Bills on a 65-yard punt return touchdown by rookie Xavier Gipson, but Rodgers’ injury cast a pall over the win.
Here’s what to know about Rodgers’ injury and the aftermath.
How did Aaron Rodgers get hurt?
On just the fourth snap of the game, Rodgers rolled out to pass and was sacked by the Bills’ Leonard Floyd. He fell awkwardly to the ground on his left leg while being wrapped up in a tackle by Floyd.
He initially stood up, then appeared to reach for his leg before slowly sitting down on the turf again. The Jets athletic training staff then rushed out to attend to him, and he ultimately needed help to get back to the Jets’ sideline.
The 39-year-old quarterback went inside the blue medical tent on the sideline to be examined and then was taken from the field on a cart. He then was seen on the ESPN broadcast getting off the cart and limping toward the Jets locker room before being ruled out for the rest of the game.
What is Rodgers’ injury?
Jets head coach Robert Saleh said in a press conference after the game that the team feared Rodgers injured his left Achilles tendon.
“(We’re) concerned with his Achilles. MRI is probably going to confirm what we think is going to happen, so prayers tonight. But it’s not good,” Saleh said.
A torn Achilles tendon would mean Rodgers was out for the season after only four plays with his new team. His addition to the Jets had brought hope to a fanbase of a team that has not reached a Super Bowl since their most famous quarterback, Joe Namath, led an upset of the Colts to win it all in 1969.
Rodgers had previously suffered a strained calf muscle during the spring in the same leg he injured on Sept. 11. But he had not missed any practice time during training camp due to the injury.
If the tests on Sept. 12 determine it is an Achilles injury, it may also bring Rodgers’ NFL future into question. The rehabilitation process for that injury generally takes between 10 and 12 months, based on previous players who have undergone it.
Rodgers will turn 40 in December, so there is the possibility he could decide to retire instead of endure an arduous year of recovery. Before the injury, he had expressed a desire to play into his 40s, and he signed a three-year contract with the Jets before this season.
The potential Achilles injury also brings back eerily bad memories for Jets fans.
After the Jets reached the AFC title game in 1998, they brought back almost their whole team and were considered Super Bowl contenders in 1999.
In the season-opening game against the New England Patriots, starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde crumpled to the ground with a torn Achilles tendon that put him out for the year and dashed the Jets’ high hopes.
Testaverde was watching on Monday night as history seemed to repeat itself.
“It brought back some bad memories,” he told The New York Post.
How did Rodgers wind up on the Jets?
Rodgers established himself as one of the great quarterbacks in NFL history while winning four Most Valuable Player awards and a Super Bowl in his 18 seasons with the Packers.
A disappointing 8-9 season in 2022 and a falling out between Rodgers and Green Bay’s management led Rodgers to openly seek a trade.
“At this point, I made it clear that my intention was to play and play for the New York Jets,” Rodgers said on “The Pat McAfee Show” in March, according to Sports Illustrated. “I still have that fire and want to play. It’s just a matter of getting that done at this point.”
The Packers traded Rodgers and a pair of draft picks to New York in April in exchange for four draft picks from the Jets.
The trade came 15 years after the Packers traded another Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Favre, to the Jets. Rodgers sat behind Favre at the beginning of his career on the Packers and then replaced him to embark on his own legendary career.
Rodgers became an instant sensation in New York, bonding with teammates 15 years younger than him and popping up at events all over the city from the Tony Awards to New York Knicks and Rangers games.
He also was a central character on this season of “Hard Knocks,” the annual Max reality show that tracks one NFL team as it prepares for the season.
Who will replace Rodgers?
Third-year quarterback Zach Wilson, 24, entered the game on Sept. 11 in place of the injured Rodgers.
He went 14-for-21 passing for 140 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the victory, while the defense was sensational in forcing four turnovers by Bills star Josh Allen.
Wilson was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft out of Brigham Young University. His underwhelming performance in two seasons as the Jets’ starting quarterback led the team to pursue Rodgers to be the starter.
The injury to Rodgers will also most likely lead the Jets to pursue another veteran quarterback to add to the team.
Rodgers’ addition was seen as the final piece of what the Jets’ brass viewed as a potential Super Bowl contender given a star-studded defense that is one of the best in the NFL and a strong running game on offense.
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