Aaron Rodgers discusses high stakes for Jets season — and what running with RFK Jr. would have meant

'If I don't do what I know I'm capable of doing, we're all probably gonna be out of here'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Aaron Rodgers was fresh off his second offseason practice.

He was fresh off hitting receiver Xavier Gipson 30 yards downfield during 11-on-11 play, threading still another diving touchdown to Garrett Wilson in red-zone work later.

The 40-year-old quarterback was not hampered by medical restrictions in the New York Jets’ second OTA practice on Tuesday, head coach Robert Saleh said. That doesn’t mean he views the task ahead as smooth sailing.

Eighth months removed from tearing his Achilles on the fourth play of his Jets career, Rodgers sees his 2024 season brings high stakes — for his season, for his legacy and for his coaches’ job security.

“As you get older in the league, if you don’t perform, they’re going to get rid of you or bring in the next guy to take over,” Rodgers said. “It happened in Green Bay, and I’m a few years older than I was back then.

“I think if I don't do what I know I'm capable of doing, we're all probably gonna be out of here. I like that kind of pressure, though.”

The Jets traded for the 10-time Pro Bowler ahead of the 2023 offseason. Rodgers was coming off a down statistical season by his standards, completing 64.6% of passes for 3,695 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions during the Packers’ 8-9 campaign in 2022.

But Rodgers is not long removed from winning league MVP honors with 37 touchdowns to four interceptions in 2021, a defense of his 2020 MVP award in a 48-to-5 year.

The Jets struggled mightily in his absence last year, their top-3 defense hampered by the 31st-ranked offense. Reports circulated that the Jets looked this offseason to replace offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, a close friend of Rodgers', as play caller.

Saleh confirmed Tuesday that Hackett will call plays in 2024.

“It’s about building an offense that can weather the storm of injury, right?” Saleh said. “Last year we got kind of caught behind the eight ball with preparing.”

The Jets had depended far too heavily on Rodgers for success.

Rodgers said in January that the Jets’ 7-10 season reflected an organizational need to “flush the bulls***” and eliminate “anything in the building that we’re doing individually or collectively that has nothing to do with real winning.”

The quarterback’s offseason has since featured a controversial appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast as well as strong consideration as a vice presidential candidate on the 2024 ticket of independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Rodgers smiled Tuesday when asked about the candidacy.

“Yeah, I love Bobby,” he said of Kennedy. “We had a couple of really nice conversations. But there are really two options: It was retire and be his VP, or keep playing. And I wanted to keep playing.”

Rodgers downplayed concerns that his offseason was the distraction he’d warned about.

“I respect those opinions,” Rodgers said. “But those are offseason things. And those are real opportunities. Mostly podcasts with friends of mine, and the Bobby thing was a real thing. How it got out there, I don’t know. It wasn’t from me.

“Once the season starts, it’s all about football.”

As for his season goals? Rodgers said he was “pretty damn hungry last year” even before the eight-plus months he’s spent rehabilitating toward another chance to play.

He said he believes in Hackett, also pointing to the influence Saleh has increasingly brought to offensive meetings.

Saleh enters his fourth campaign as head coach without a winning season with the Jets. He improved the Jets' defense from 32nd his inaugural season to top-4 each of the last two seasons, but nonfunctional quarterback play has kept the offense from holding up its end of the bargain.

Rodgers hopes to reverse that trend for a franchise nine years removed from its last top-10 offense and 14 years removed from its last playoff berth.

He plans to play beyond the presidential election in November. And he hopes he’ll play beyond the regular-season finale in January.

“I have a lot of motivation, I love the game, I want to play at a high level,” Rodgers said. “I don’t want to go out as a bum. I want to be able to play. That’s why I put the work in and believe in my abilities. I mean you guys saw it today: There was no pads on but I can obviously still throw with the best of them and can still move around and look forward to my confidence in my ability to move getting back to where it was last year, and going out and playing well.

“I think all the individual possibilities for recognition will be great. But if I play the way I’m capable of playing, we’re going to be playing for a lot more than that.”