Aaron Rodgers on early-season schedule: "Supposedly we owe the league a little bit"

Earlier this week, Panthers coach Dave Canales said prime-time games have to be earned. That's partially true.

A perennially sluggish team can acquire prime-time games by landing a big-name player, like Aaron Rodgers.

It made the Jets an attractive team last year, even though they haven't been to the playoffs since 2010. It got them six primetime games in 11 weeks this year, too, including two Sunday-Thursday turnarounds in the first two months, even though the wheels came off in 2023.

Asked about the early slate on Tuesday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers turned it around on the NFL.

"Well, supposedly we owe the league a little bit," Rodgers told reporters on Tuesday, referring to the surprisingly candid comments last week from NFL V.P. of broadcast planning Mike North.

The Jets' early-season travel-and-rest gauntlet starts with two road games (one in San Francisco and one in Tennessee) before a Thursday night home game.

"The Thursday games are always tough," Rodgers said. "Doesn't matter if you're a first-year player or a 20-year player. Little bit harder probably at 20 years than first year, as far as being able to bounce back. But, you know, I'm sure that Robert [Saleh] will do some creative things with the schedule. We're gonna have to. . . . You love the Thursdays because of the weekend, the mini-byes. But to start the season out like that is definitely a good challenge for us."

The good news is that the opponents aren't grueling. But the timing and the travel could be.

Rodgers has played four snaps of full-speed football since January 2023. He'll play three games in 10 days to start the season. Not because the Jets earned it last year, but because they didn't. Because they "kind of owe us one."

The paying of that debt will make it even harder for an annual non-playoff team to get there in 2024.