FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers is 39, the oldest player in the NFL, and he’s coming off the worst statistical season of his career. He’s confident he will rebound, but he doesn’t feel like he needs to prove anything.
“I’m not looking at this like I have to bounce back or do anything [special],” he said Thursday after practice. “I just have to play the way I know how to play. I’ve been working my ass off for the last six months to try to put a better product on the field than last year. And I expect to.”
Rodgers will make his long-anticipated Jets debut at home on Monday night against the Buffalo Bills, the three-time defending AFC East champions. After months of hype, fueled by “Hard Knocks” and Super Bowl talk from within the locker room, Rodgers & Co. finally get a chance to show everyone why they’re so optimistic.
After 18 seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Rodgers is starting a new chapter. His final season in Green Bay didn’t go well. He missed the playoffs for the first time in four years, recorded a career-low Total QBR (41.3) and threw more interceptions (12) than any season since 2008, his first year as a starter.
Rodgers played with a broken thumb for much of the year and didn’t have his go-to receiver, Davante Adams, who was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders. Now Rodgers is healthy and he has a talented supporting cast, led by wide receiver Garrett Wilson, the 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
But there will be changes. Rodgers said he will streamline his elaborate set of hand signals and code words, just to make things easier for his new teammates.
“We’ve adjusted a lot of things,” he said. “We’ve adjusted signals I’ve used for years that are no longer in existence, so I’m studying extra on those because I’ve got 18 years and some of those signals [that I] banked, we changed.
“And we’ve made some good adjustments with the offensive staff on things I’ve done over the years that don’t really register with guys mentally because they register with me and everybody I grew up playing with. We’ve made some good changes. I’m not going to put anything on their plate that we haven’t talked about of repped or worked on a meeting or worked on in practice.”
Rodgers has a small circle that he knows well from Green Bay — offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and wide receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. Everyone else is learning Rodgers and vice versa.
Running back Dalvin Cook said Rodgers is trying to make everyone comfortable.
“Making us come to his comfort zone and us meeting at a neutral ground is important — and he knows that,” said Cook, who declared himself ready to play after an abbreviated training camp. “He’s been trying to temper things down to where we’re all on the same page … [He’s] always working in the meeting room.”
Rodgers didn’t make any bold predictions for the season, saying only that the Jets are one of six to 12 teams that can win the Super Bowl. Their playoff drought is 12 seasons, the longest active slump in the league.
“It takes a few weeks to figure out your identity on both sides of the ball, so we’re going to be a work in progress,” he said. The atmosphere at MetLife Stadium will be electric, as the game will be played on the 22nd anniversary of 9/11. The Jets haven’t played on Monday night since 2020.
“‘Monday Night Football’ is great,” Rodgers said. “You play in the league long enough, you want a lot of 1 o’clock games. But you don’t grow up dreaming about playing the 1 o’clock games. You dream about playing ‘Monday Night Football’ and ‘Sunday Night Football.'”