Aaron Rodgers’ Big Apple debut will come in the New York Jets’ preseason finale against the Giants next Saturday night.
The 39-year-old quarterback, who hasn’t played in an exhibition game since 2018 while with the Green Bay Packers, will start in the Jets’ final tuneup before the regular-season opener on Sept. 11 against the Buffalo Bills, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday because the Jets didn’t announce their plans for the game. The New York Post first reported Rodgers’ debut with New York would come against the Giants.
The four-time NFL MVP said this summer he would be open to playing a bit in the preseason as he begins his first season with the Jets after being acquired by New York from Green Bay in April.
He spent the first three preseason games on the sideline wearing a headset and giving input to coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and the rest of the offense while Zach Wilson started at quarterback.
Coach Robert Saleh said after the Jets’ 13-6 preseason loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday night that he and his staff would meet and discuss the team’s plans for Rodgers for the game against the Giants.
“We’re going to have all the talks about how we’re going to handle this (fourth) one, whether or not we want a dress rehearsal — not game plan or anything — but just make sure that everyone is getting out there to play,” Saleh said. “Again, we’re going to talk about it all in the next few days.”
Saleh added the team would also speak to Rodgers to get his thoughts on playing a few snaps in the preseason finale.
“He can always interject,” Saleh said. “I’m always going to lean on him and talk with him, so he will definitely be part of the discussion.”
While most of the starters have rested during the Jets’ first three preseason games, it would appear those on offense, at least, will suit up to play against the Giants.
The decision to play Rodgers in an exhibition might make some Jets fans wary, especially after they saw quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Mark Sanchez get injured against the Giants in preseason games over the years. But Rodgers has hinted he wouldn’t mind playing a few snaps before the regular season begins.
“If Rob (Saleh) said, ‘Hey, we’re going to go,’ whatever. Go, let’s do it,” Rodgers said earlier this month. “Most coaches just have that fear where they’d rather get you to the Week 1 then risk it, but I believe there’s a chance for the last one, and that we’ll probably use Carolina and Tampa, those joint practices, as kind of our preseason tuneup.
“But if Robert says, ‘Hey, we’re going to go a quarter, a quarter-and-a-half or a half, whatever, in the last one,’ then we’ll suit up and do it.”
Rodgers agreed during the summer to a restructured contract that gives him $75 million in fully guaranteed money over this season and next. It amounts to a nearly $35 million pay cut from the deal he had with Green Bay in which he was scheduled to make $110 million in guarantees.
After 18 years with the Packers, Rodgers has said he’s excited about the new opportunity with the Jets and called it “a few years partnership.” He attended all of New York’s voluntary workouts in the offseason — something he hadn’t done in recent years with Green Bay — and has routinely interacted with both the offense and defense during training camp to share information and make sure his new Jets teammates have their “brains turned on.”
He has also been a mentor to Wilson, who struggled his first two NFL seasons but has made some noticeable improvements this summer. Rodgers said on CBS’ pregame show he’d like to play “a few good years here and then hand it off to Zach for the next 15.”
“It helps me knowing that he believes in me, that I can play this game for a long time,” Wilson said Saturday. “That’s why I lean on him so much. I truly appreciate having a big brother like that.”
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