‘The coach who can still play’

Jets coach Robert Saleh laughed in a moment at the team’s first training camp practice on Thursday.

The defense tried to hide its form but quarterback Aaron Rodgers was not fooled.

Rodgers looked at the safety and pointed his fingers at him to get closer to the line because he knew that’s what the Jets defender was about to do.

Saleh said, “He is a coach who can still play football.”

Everyone around the Jets knew what Rodgers could do with a football in his hands, but they were stunned by Rodgers’ football skills and his ability to teach.

Rodgers was asked Thursday about being a coach on the field and joked that he remembers watching Trey Rollins as player-coach of the Orlando Magic when he was a kid.

“I don’t see myself as a Tree in that scenario,” Rodgers joked. “I know that being an older player in the team is part of the responsibility to teach a little bit more.”

In a 15-minute session with the media on Thursday, Rodgers showed not only his age but also perspective in the context of a 1990s basketball player.

Aaron Rodgers is much more than just a QB for the Jets.
Bill Kostron/New York Post

Rodgers said that he is no longer as grumpy as before.

Rodgers said, “I feel like I’ve grown a lot over the years.” “Now, there are some of those well-documented phytotherapy journeys that I talked about. Second is perspective. I guess as you get older, you see things a little more clearly. Vision is 20/20. Try to improve some of the things you did in a certain way that you feel you could have done better. … Yeah, I would say maybe early in my career I got angry a little more easily. I feel like as I’m getting older, I’m getting a little less excited.

Wide receiver Allen Lazard, who is now with Rodgers in New York after five years in Green Bay, said he’s seen more of Rodgers taking on a mentor role with the Jets than with the Packers.

Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws a pass in training camp at Florham Park, NJ
Rodgers was seen on Thursday guiding his defenders as they tried to fool him.
Bill Kostron/New York Post

“I see it more and more how he’s opening his arms, reaching out, trying to help people, trying to teach. Needless to say, it was tough playing with him early on in Green Bay. He was saying too much, ‘You guys have to pick it up,” Lazard said, snapping his fingers. “He’s a little slow to understand that there are a lot of new players out here.”

Lazard was asked if the Jets were now running a “Packers offense” with him, fellow receiver Randall Cobb and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, all coming from Green Bay as well as Rodgers.

“It’s Aaron Rodgers’ offense,” Lazard said. “When he’s on the field, the whole playbook is open at any time, even on the first day of practice.”

Lazard told a story about the team’s first walkthrough in training camp and Rodgers demanding something the team hadn’t even practiced yet.

Rodgers said he was happy to be back with Hackett and a system he knew well.

“I wouldn’t say it’s my fault,” Rodgers said when told of Lazard’s remarks. “Certainly I have been successful in this. but in 2020 it was a bunch of mats [LaFleur] wanted to run, what hack had run in the past and what I had run in the past. We just fit together. It’s kind of an offshoot of that with maybe a little more West Coast flavor. But it is really Hackett’s crime on which I have been able to collaborate with him. There’s definitely been a lot to learn from it.”

Rodgers said he is enjoying every moment with his new team and even made a comment that made it clear he intends to remain a Jet beyond the 2023 season.

“It’s great to have this team of guys who are young and super-talented, many of them on their first contracts,” Rodgers said. “When you have so many great players on rookie deals, it is exciting to know that you can do something, you have a good window. It is not just a matter of one year where you can be competitive.

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