Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, making his debut with the New York Jets, was carted off the field after suffering a left Achilles injury on just his fourth play in the team’s Monday Night Football game against the Buffalo Bills and will miss the rest of the 2023 NFL season.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh told reporters on a media call Tuesday: “He’s out for the year. He needs surgery.”
Saleh said he didn’t have information on the four-time Most Valuable Player’s surgery schedule and recovery process. At 39, Rodgers is the second oldest player in the league, and this was to be his 19th season.
Multiple sources told CNN an MRI on Tuesday showed a complete tear of Rodgers’ left Achilles tendon.
Saleh told reporters, “We know it’s torn. That’s been confirmed.”
The Jets indirectly referenced the bleak outlook of the injury on social media, posting on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Not the way any of us wanted it to go, but we know the commitment you’ve made to this team will continue to impact us moving forward. Get well soon, Aaron Rodgers.”
The injury occurred when Rodgers was sacked by Bills edge rusher Leonard Floyd.
The 39-year-old hobbled up for a few moments before going back down to the ground. He was attended to by Jets medical staff before being helped off the field at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
After being looked at in the blue medical tent on the sidelines, the 39-year-old was taken to the locker room on a cart, and he missed the rest of the game.
Saleh said he spoke to Rodgers on Tuesday.
“As you guys can imagine, he’s … down, you know,” the coach said, adding he didn’t talk with the quarterback about his future. “I’ll let him answer those questions.”
Rodgers’ back-up, Zach Wilson, came in to fill the quarterback void and led the team to a 22-16 overtime victory over the Bills after undrafted rookie wide receiver Xavier Gipson returned a punt 65 yards for a walk-off touchdown.
Rodgers’ most meaningful action of the evening turned out to be running out onto the field before the game holding the US flag in a tribute to the September 11 terrorist attacks, with the game being held 22 years after the incidents which saw 2,977 people killed in New York City, Washington, DC and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The reaction to Rodgers’ injury on social media was filled with emotion, with many Jets fans mourning the loss of the player they thought might be a final piece in a Super Bowl-winning team. ESPN host and Jets fan Mike Greenberg said on Tuesday that the emotional rollercoaster of the last six months makes this such a painful moment.
“I want more than anyone to be furious today, but the reality is, sometimes things just happen. There really isn’t anybody to be mad at,” Greenberg said on ‘Get Up.’ “Football is inherently a violent and dangerous game, injuries are going to take place 100% of the time and you just have to hope that yours is not the team, if you are a fan, whose season is destroyed by an injury.
“Half the contenders in the league at a minimum would have their contention taken away if their quarterback went down. Half the teams in the league could not overcome an injury like this. The Jets built absolutely everything in their team, in their season, the entire organization shaped around Aaron Rodgers and he deserved it.
“From the moment they got him, he has been invested beyond anyone’s wildest dreams … The idea that his season would be over in four plays never entered my mind.”
Jets’ fans were pumped to see Rodgers turn around the team, according to CNN sports analyst and former NFL player Coy Wire.
“We all wanted to see Aaron Rodgers out there, one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” Wire said Tuesday morning. “Four-time league MVP and this was supposed to be the moment where he comes and brings the Jets back to their glory, which happened about 55 years ago when Broadway Joe (Namath) … that was their only Super Bowl title.”
The Jets edged the Bills, who are considered a Super Bowl contender – with a late touchdown Monday night and Wire thinks the New York team could still win a lot of games.
Before being traded in the offseason, Rodgers had spent the first 18 seasons of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers, where he led the team to a 31-25 victory in Super Bowl XLV in 2011.
Rodgers won MVP awards in 2011, 2014, 2020 and 2021, while setting numerous records for his accuracy and deadliness over the years.
Fake grass controversy
Saleh downplayed speculation about the role the new field turf at MetLife Stadium played in Rodgers’ serious injury.
“If it was a noncontact injury, I think that’d be something to discuss obviously, but that was kind of a forcible – I think that was trauma-induced,” Saleh said at the news conference. “I do know the players prefer grass and there’s a lot invested in those young men.”
Green Bay Packers offensive lineman and Rodgers’ former teammate, David Bakhtiari, called out the NFL on the artificial turf in the league after Rodgers’ injury.
“Congrats @nfl. How many more players have to get hurt on ARTIFICIAL TURF??! You care more about soccer players than us. You plan to remove all artificial turf for the World Cup coming up. So clearly it’s feasible,” Bakhtiari’s post, which drew thousands of replies, said on social media site X on Monday. “I’m sick of this..Do better!”
Data from from the past eight years shows there is no difference in the rate of Achilles injuries on natural grass and synthetic surfaces, Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, and health and safety, said during a virtual news conference Tuesday.
“Because an injury happens on a surface doesn’t mean that it’s actually caused by that surface and in this case, we haven’t seen a data difference for Achilles injuries,” Miller said. “There’s a lot more work to do. We don’t want those injuries in the game. We want to prevent those that we can, especially major injuries like those.”
When asked what message it sends to league players that a few stadiums change their surfaces from artificial to grass for soccer and revert back to the synthetic field for football, Miller said, “If there was one, that’s fine. We do spend a lot of time thinking about surfaces and their injury rates and how those relate to how our game is played in the particular use cases for football.”
Miller said certain natural grass surfaces have a lower injury rate than synthetic surfaces and some synthetic surfaces that have a lower injury rate than natural grass. The league will study what role different surfaces might or might not play in injuries, he said.
CNN’s Wayne Sterling contributed to this report.
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