EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers’ debut with the New York Jets lasted just four snaps.
And now the four-time MVP and a shell-shocked fanbase will have to see how long he might be sidelined.
Coach Robert Saleh said the team believes Rodgers injured his left Achilles tendon when he was sacked by Buffalo’s Leonard Floyd and fell awkwardly on the leg during Monday night’s 22-16 overtime win over the Bills.
“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,” a somber Saleh said.
Saleh said the 39-year-old Rodgers would have the MRI on Tuesday after X-rays during the game were negative. NFL Network reported Rodgers’ left foot was in a black walking boot as he was carted to the X-ray room.
“Personally, I don’t hurt for me, I don’t hurt for our locker room,” Saleh said. “I hurt for Aaron and how much he has invested in all of this. I’m going to say a prayer. I’m still going to hold out hope. But my heart’s with Aaron right now, nobody else.”
After a 26-yard run by Breece Hall on the Jets’ opening play, Rodgers threw his first pass away after getting heavy pressure from Gregg Rousseau. Rodgers threw incomplete on the next play, but Terrel Bernard was called for defensive holding.
Then, Rodgers tried to avoid a rushing Floyd, who wrapped up the quarterback and took him down to the MetLife Stadium turf. Rodgers appeared to reach down at his leg before trainers attended to him. He stood up after a few moments, but needed help getting to New York’s sideline.
Rodgers was taken to the blue medical tent to be examined — and then sat on a cart. Halfway to the locker room, he hopped off the cart and limped inside.
“Obviously, just seeing how he responded to getting up and everything and limping off the field, it wasn’t anything good,” said wide receiver Allen Lazard, who played five seasons with Rodgers in Green Bay. “But honestly, it’s almost like comical just on how this whole offseason played out for him to go down the first game without even completing a pass and everything.”
Zach Wilson replaced Rodgers just 3:45 into the game and finished 14 of 21 for 140 yards and a touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson.
The third-year quarterback would start for the Jets next Sunday at Dallas if Rodgers, as expected, is sidelined.
“Yeah, he’ll be the guy,” Saleh said.
The injury silenced a crowd that had been raucous just minutes earlier, anticipating Rodgers’ Big Apple debut. The Jets haven’t made it to the Super Bowl since Joe Namath won the franchise’s only championship during the 1968 season, and frustrated fans hoped Rodgers’ arrival was the first step to getting back to the big game.
Rodgers jogged onto the field during player introductions with an American flag in hand on the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and received his first official welcome from Jets fans.
With hip-hop artist and actor Method Man announcing Rodgers’ name — accompanied by a laser light show — the quarterback got huge applause.
New York acquired Rodgers, the No. 15 overall pick and a fifth-rounder in this year’s draft from Green Bay on April 26. In exchange, the Packers got the 13th overall selection, a second-rounder, a sixth-rounder and a conditional 2024 second-round pick that could become a first-rounder if Rodgers plays 65% of New York’s plays this season — a scenario that now appears highly unlikely.
Rodgers, who spent his first 18 seasons with Green Bay, raised expectations for the Jets and their fan base when he said he expects to win in New York and pointed out during his introductory news conference that the team’s only Super Bowl trophy looks “lonely.”
If healthy, he would give 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 has repeatedly 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. It amounts to a nearly $35 million pay cut from the deal he had with Green Bay in which he was set to make $110 million guaranteed.