Jets’ Aaron Rodgers briefly thought career could be over after tearing Achilles

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers warms up before playing against the Buffalo Bills in an NFL football game, Sept. 11, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Adam Hunger/AP Photo)

Aaron Rodgers acknowledged during a podcast appearance this week he briefly thought his playing career could be over after he tore his left Achilles tendon in the New York Jets’ season opener.

“I was really thinking, ‘This is it. You don’t come back from this injury,’” the 40-year-old quarterback said during a wide-ranging 2 1/2-hour interview on the “I Can Fly” podcast, which was published Tuesday.

Rodgers, traded to the Jets last offseason after 18 years with the Green Bay Packers, was injured just four snaps into his debut with New York on Sept. 11.

“I had this incredible offseason experience in a new city, in a new town, with new teammates, a new organization, an owner for the first time, and really falling back in love with the game that I first fell in love with when I was 5 years old,” Rodgers said. “And it was absolutely beautiful and special and deep and rich and yummy, and just incredible.

“And then, one of the most heartbreaking nights of my life, when I played four plays. Talk about an ego death.”

Rodgers said he quickly began researching Kobe Bryant’s surgery to repair a similar injury during his playing days with the Los Angeles Lakers and “the doomsday of, like, my career is over kind of started to go away.”

The four-time NFL MVP fought back tears while talking about his message to some of his closest friends about his recovery and rehabilitation before he flew home to California on Sept. 12.

“I said, ‘I need help,'” Rodgers recalled. “‘This is going to be really, tough. I just need you all to be there for me on the tough days when I stop believing it’s possible.'”

Rodgers had surgery the next day and went through an extensive rehabilitation process that he said was helped by prayer, diet and support from friends. He insisted his goal was to return before the end of the regular season if the Jets remained in playoff contention – while pulling off the fastest known recovery from a torn Achilles. He was cleared by doctors for some football activities in late November and said he felt good, but aborted the comeback attempt a month later with the Jets out of the postseason hunt and him not 100 per cent recovered from the injury.

Coach Robert Saleh said last month at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Florida, that Rodgers is on track to practice when the Jets begin voluntary organized team activities next month.

Rodgers, who was considered as a running mate for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign, is focused on returning to the football field.

“I’m excited about playing again,” Rodgers said. “I love playing. I fell back in love with the game and then I had it taken away after four plays. I miss being out there, I love competing. …

“Football is my happy place. That’s where I feel most in control of my athletic ability. I missed that last year, I really, really missed it. My heart was broken. I’m excited about taking the field one more time and — not life or death — going to battle with my guys.”

Rodgers said “so much changed” in his life “for the better” on a personal level since he sat “heartbroken” in the Jets’ locker room on Sept. 11 and “thinking my career might be over.”

“Only in that has all this beauty been able to happen in the last six months, so how can I not be grateful to the universe,” Rodgers said. “She is a beautiful teacher.”

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