FLOURHAM PARK, NJ – If it felt like a dream, Aaron Rodgers running across the practice field in a Jets jersey, for a Jets coach, things quickly returned to reality when he took off his helmet, went into the building and walked back very carefully for the rest of the day, just a bystander .
Airplanes, as they say, can’t have cute things. So Rodgers was, watching as much as anyone, before he could even throw a pass for the first time in front of the assembled media at Tuesday’s OTA practice — and a lot of the media. Enough to snag CJ Uzomah when he arrived for his post-practice press conference, and even to distract Rodgers in the middle of answering a reporter’s question.
The excitement of Rodgers’ debut in front of the cameras faded, as most footage instead would show him standing on the sidelines with the Jets’ strength coach, or watching as Zack Wilson and the quarterbacks ran drills. But everyone was still smiling after the workout, including Rodgers, who is still marveling at this new chapter in his career after his trade from the Packers on April 24.
“It’s been like a dream month so far,” said Rodgers.
As it turns out, Rodgers had simply suffered a calf adjustment, and wasn’t particularly concerned with the short-term or long-term effect it had on his playing ability. “I don’t think it’s very serious,” he said.
So while it felt like an unimpressive day at Florham Park, it could have gone a lot worse. Rodgers is still the Jets’ starting quarterback – so team fans can stop pinching themselves.
Here are some thoughts and notes from the Jets’ second OTA practice, and their first with the media present.
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Old man Rodgers
Before the workout, Jets coach Robert Salih described Rodgers as an old man in a young body.
“Is that a compliment?” Rodgers asked.
He was. Rodgers has had no difficulty dealing with a roster full of young players. He famously went to a Knicks game with Sauce Gardner – 16 years his junior – earlier this month. Rodgers got off the practice field with Uzuma recently and discovered that his teammate had never watched “Jersey Shore” on MTV, which stunned him. Rodgers made sure to mention that earlier in his career he went to Las Vegas for one of DJ Pauly D’s shows.
“It’s lit,” said DJ Reed. “There’s so much energy about the building… Everyone is just happy, with a smile on their face.”
Rodgers said he feels energized to be around the Jets, though he’d like to get out of the hotel near the facility where he currently lives. And he acted as more than just a quarterback for the Jets. He spoke during meetings, pulled teammates aside during practice to give helpful advice, and on Mondays even left the offense for poor effort. Azuma said his message was, in a few words: “Gather with you.”
Rodgers said his main point on Monday was attention to detail, specifically with safety on the ball and finishing plays. He told a story about how bagging Ryan Grant would finish practically every carry to the end zone, and when Jordy Nelson saw that wide receiver was a rookie, he started doing it, too.
“You can’t just go out there and go through the moves, check out a box and focus so much on doing things the right way that you become a robot there,” Rodgers said. “Everything we do needs purpose and intention. And the attention to detail wasn’t good enough (on Monday) in terms of the basic stuff, the finishing and securing the ball.”
Even after Rodgers is out of practice, he still coaches his quarterbacks when they work on plays and has been spotted chatting with Uzuma about running as well.
Zack Wilson Day
When Rodgers got out, Wilson hit that No. 1 quarterback slot. It was light practice overall—7 on 7, no contact—but Wilson acquitted himself well for the most part. In total, he completed 12 of 14 passes, although one of the incompletes deflected off Jarrett Wilson’s helmet and was nearly caught.
He quickly recovered from that by using the laser to finish off a tight Jeremy Ruckert, and later hit Wilson with a beautiful deep pass down the left sideline, off Reed, who was caught diving by Wilson.
Reid explained how great that throw was: “It was a good ball from Zach,” Reed said. But he said he (Garrett) was supposed to run a skinny pole but he only came out on the outside, so Zach put the ball inside. That’s why it was a great throw and a great catch.”
Wilson followed that up with another sweet throw into the middle of the field, into a tight window, to wide receiver Irv Charles.
It’s obviously too soon to draw any conclusions after watching Wilson once, in this setting, but there were at least some encouraging signs – and no turn-ons.
Less successful were Tim Boyle and Chris Streffler, the other quarterbacks. Boyle threw an interception to rookie linebacker in Round 6 Zaire Barnes, although the pass was deflected off Michael Carter. Streveler made some nice throws up the field, but he was also lucky to avoid being intercepted by undrafted rookie linebacker Claudine Cherillos during red zone drills. Cherillos dropped the pick, and his teammates made him do push-ups as punishment.
Injured and non-participants
During a 7-on-7 drill, Alain Lazard went to the floor in pain and sprinted to the sideline. He later returned to training after which he explained on Twitter Just what happened.
Offensive tackle Mekhi Becton and running back Breece Hall are both on the sidelines for the coaches as they continue to recover from last year’s knee injuries. Picton is closer to back than Hull. Offensive linemen Alijah Vera-Tucker (triceps) and Max Mitchell (illness) have been coached after missing the end of last season. Others in attendance but not practiced defensive ends included John Franklin Myers and Michael Clemons, as well as Gardner and others.
Wide receiver Randall Cobb was among the veterans who did not participate in training. Nor was defensive tackle Quinn Williams, who is seeking a new contract.
Gates and Williams – as the athlete It was reported recently – not particularly close to a new contract agreement, so it’s unclear how long it will be until he shows up.
“I’m not worried at all,” Saleh said. “This thing will be done and it will be here.”
Becton made waves over the weekend with some critical comments about the Jets’ A’s coaching staff Newsday article. He blamed Saleh and the coaches for putting him at right tackle last year – against his wishes – and said he believes that’s what caused him to suffer a knee injury in training camp, ending his season before it even started.
When asked about the comments on Tuesday, Saleh chose to highlight all the work Picton has done — he’s lost quite a bit of weight — and how he’s been an active participant in the offseason, which he wasn’t last year.
“I think he’s probably in the best shape of his life,” Saleh said.
Salih also said that Becton’s desire to play left tackle will not affect where the Jets ultimately decide to play him. They will simply play their top five offensive linemen.
The Jets traded for Clark in March, adding him as a replacement for LaMarcus Joyner at safety. The 28-year-old didn’t seem too bothered about the Ravens leaving, saying he asked for a trade last year and Baltimore wouldn’t give it to him.
“I was ready to get out of there,” Clark said.
Why? Clark admitted that Kyle Hamilton’s first round last year had something to do with it, and that there was a financial component as well.
“Just the situation I was put in, the things I was told and the position I was in on the team, I felt I wasn’t being respected,” Clark said. “So it’s time for a change.”
Asked about it again, Clarke said: “I’ve been a fixture in the team – I’m not going to get too far into it but in terms of contract talks, financial talks, there were some things that weren’t respected.”
(Photo: Jonathan Jones/USA Today)
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