Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers watches as Zach Wilson starts for Jets in preseason opener

Rodgers was fired up after Wilson completed a 57-yard pass during the Jets' matchup against the Browns in the Hall of Fame Game

Zach Wilson and Aaron Rodgers
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The New York Jets took the field in the shadow of the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a quarterback who one day will be enshrined there.

Aaron Rodgers made his first unofficial on-field appearance as a member of the Jets on Thursday during their preseason-opening 21-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the NFL's annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. But he was on the sideline. 

Rodgers wore a green Jets hat, a black T-shirt and a headset while watching his new team compete.

Still, it marked the dawning of a new era for a team that has not had much stability at the quarterback position since Joe Namath's 12-year tenure, which included the team's lone Super Bowl appearance and victory in 1969.

Rodgers' presence, even while out of uniform during an early-August game, brings hope of ending that drought.

Getting the start was Zach Wilson, a quarterback 15 years younger than Rodgers who not long ago was viewed as the team's next franchise quarterback. Wilson took the field Thursday on what was his 24th birthday, having been called "little bro" by the 38-year-old Rodgers in a social media post earlier in the day...

Wilson completed 3 of 5 passes for 65 yards while playing three drives during the first quarter, including a 57-yard completion to Malik Taylor that helped set up the game’s opening field goal for a 3-0 Jets lead.

The Jets, who scored their first touchdown on a 10-yard rush by rookie running back Israel Abanikanda in the second quarter, took a 16-7 lead into halftime.

The Jets drafted Wilson with the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but he struggled over his first two seasons as starter. That led the Jets to make a move for a veteran quarterback who could prove to be the missing piece on a team that has offensive weapons and a formidable defense. 

The Jets acquired Rodgers from the Packers in April, along with a 2023 fifth-round pick, in exchange for a 2023 second-rounder, a 2023 sixth-rounder and a conditional 2024 second-rounder that becomes a first if Rodgers plays 65 percent of the plays in 2023. The two teams also swapped 2023 first-rounders, which saw New York drop from No. 13 to No. 15.

Rodgers has quickly assimilated into New York, attending a New York Rangers playoff game, sitting courtside near Jessica Alba at a New York Knicks game, and dancing at a Taylor Swift concert at MetLife Stadium.

"I'm loving my time here," Rodgers said during an in-game interview on the NBC broadcast. "I've just embraced everything New York and had some great opportunities at [Madison Square Garden], concerts -- Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran -- and plays. There's a lot of stuff to do. I'm enjoying it."

He has also said and done all the right things, declining to take up Namath on his offer to unretire his No. 12, defending Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett after he was criticized by Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton, and even taking a $35 million pay cut

The four-time NFL MVP agreed to a restructured two-year, $75 million deal with the Jets last week, coughing up around $35 million of the roughly $110 million in future guaranteed money he was previously owed to give the team some financial flexibility and show his commitment.

"When there's a big-time change in your life, you can resist it or you can just jump in and surrender to the process and all the newness of it," Rodgers said of embracing his new situation. "It's been a lot of fun just being around these young guys and a team that's really hungry."

The hope is that all of the success from the honeymoon stage of the union will carry over onto the field once Rodgers steps onto it. 

The Jets' preseason schedule includes games at Carolina on Aug. 12, at home against Tampa Bay on Aug. 19 and a matchup against the Giants on Aug. 26.

The Rodgers era in New York officially gets underway on Sept. 11 when the Jets host the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football.     

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