Aaron Rodgers once had the reputation of being a bad teammate. The reaction from the New York Jets' locker room following their 19-16 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills proved that this could not be further from the truth. The image of Rodgers being carted off the field in the first quarter clouded over the team's celebration of the thrilling victory.
The silence from the 82,000 fans at MetLife Stadium was deafening when — just four offensive snaps into the Jets' season — Rodgers grabbed his legs, rolled onto his back and cringed. He had torn his Achilles tendon.
Four quarters, four Josh Allen turnovers and an incredible touchdown catch by Garrett Wilson later, the Jets found themselves in overtime against the Bills. Even without their heralded leader, they fought tooth and nail with the team that had won the AFC East each of the past three years. After a three-and-out from the Bills to start overtime, Sam Martin punted the ball to Xavier Gipson, who took it all the way to the end zone to win the game.
Gipson's unbelievable return can be partly credited to an inspiring interaction he shared with Rodgers at halftime.
"In the locker room, he showed me no signs of disappointment," Gipson told ESPN after the game. "He encouraged me, he just gave me a look. I looked him in the eyes, I was thinking, 'Let's win the game for A-Rod.'"
Ever since Rodgers became a New York Jet, he has made a clear effort to create strong relationships with his new teammates. He has unique handshakes with many players. He's walked the Tony's Red Carpet with C.J. Uzomah. He sat courtside with "Sauce" Gardner at a Knicks game. For most of the Jets roster, Rodgers is not just a teammate — he's a close friend.
With the four-time MVP likely missing the remainder of the season, Zach Wilson is expected to step up in his absence. Even though Rodgers was brought in to replace the former second-overall pick, the two quickly formed a strong bond.
"I have so much love for (Rodgers). My heart goes out to him," Wilson said after the game. He also praised what Rodgers has taught him over the offseason, saying he feels "a lot more prepared" to lead the team.
Veteran offensive tackle Duane Brown let up the pressure from linebacker Leonard Floyd that eventually led to Rodgers' injury. After the game, Brown was holding back tears. When asked the describe his emotions, Brown said through heavy breaths, "it sucks. ... I got all the respect and love for Aaron. ... I just hate to not see him out there."
To me last night #Jets T Duane Brown really embodied the gravity of the injury to Aaron Rodgers.
He explained what happened on his protection, on the play where #8 went down.
Brown didn't avoid the media, answered everything like the professional he is. pic.twitter.com/Ue24jSsUEV
— JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) September 12, 2023
For the five months since the Jets acquired the longtime Green Bay quarterback, he represented hope for a Jets franchise that hadn't seen an elite quarterback since Joe Namath. To have the window closed for New York just as quickly as it opened will undoubtedly take the fan base a while to recover from. An extra layer of heartache comes for Rodgers' teammates, who must go through the season without their beloved leader.
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.