EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — On his fourth snap of the season, Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered what is feared to be a significant Achilles tendon injury, a crushing blow to the future Hall of Famer and New York’s Super Bowl aspirations.
Rodgers will have an MRI on Tuesday, according to coach Robert Saleh, who painted a grim picture Monday night after the Jets’ 22-16 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium.
“The MRI is probably going to confirm what we think is going to happen, so prayers tonight,” a somber Saleh told reporters. “But it’s not good.”
A torn Achilles would be a season-ending injury. Because of Rodgers’ age, 39, a severe injury also would raise questions about his future, even though he said recently that he hopes to play a few more years.
After a thunderous reception during pregame introductions, Rodgers — in his highly anticipated Jets debut — went down with 10:56 remaining in the first quarter. He tried to spin out of a sack by defensive end Leonard Floyd and twisted to the ground, with his left foot seemingly getting stuck in the turf.
Rodgers injured the same lower leg — a strained calf — in OTAs during the spring. He didn’t miss any practice time in training camp because of the injury.
After the sack, Rodgers stayed on the ground and had to be helped to the sideline by two members of the medical staff. He spent a few minutes in the injury tent before being carted down the sideline. He got out and limped through the midfield tunnel toward the locker room.
“As we were trying to lift him up or talk to him about getting up, he was just like, ‘No. I’m not getting up,'” guard Alijah Vera-Tucker said. “Any time a player says that, you know it’s probably not good, definitely not the most ideal thing to have happen.”
Former starter Zach Wilson replaced Rodgers, threw a touchdown pass and helped rally the Jets to a come-from-behind victory. Afterward, the mood was dampened by Rodgers’ injury.
“Personally, I don’t hurt for me, I don’t hurt for our locker room, I hurt for Aaron and how much he has invested in all this,” Saleh said. “I’m still going to say a prayer and hold out hope. My heart is with Aaron.”
Rodgers wasn’t available after the game; he had already left the stadium. He was in the locker room at halftime, with several players saying afterward that they told him they loved him.
The injury occurred on an odd play. It was supposed to be a quick pass, but Rodgers held the ball and extended the play. Left tackle Duane Brown, expecting a quick throw, fired out of his stance and tried to cut block Floyd. But Brown stumbled, leaving Floyd with a clear path to Rodgers.
Brown was disconsolate after the game.
“It was a cut block. I went to cut the defensive end,” he said softly. He played it well and he got home and Aaron got hit. … It sucks, man. I got all the love and respect for Aaron. I just hate to not see him out there.”
Brown, 38, underwent offseason shoulder surgery and had minimal practice time in training camp. This was his first game action. The starting offensive line didn’t play together in the preseason, and Rodgers was pressured on his only two dropbacks.
“Duane can’t look at that and say it was his fault,” Saleh said.
Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021, finished the game. The Jets didn’t have a third quarterback in uniform, as they opted to leave Tim Boyle on the practice squad for the game. They likely will sign a quarterback, but the plan is to move forward with Wilson as the starter, Saleh said. Wilson completed 14 of 21 passes for 140 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Wilson has an 8-14 record as a starter. He was demoted twice last season, prompting the organization to make a blockbuster trade for Rodgers, who was hailed as the missing piece in their championship puzzle. The entire offseason was geared around Rodgers, who made a quick impact on the team with his leadership.
Rodgers has suffered major injuries before — a fractured collarbone in 2013 and a fractured clavicle in 2017. This will impact the 2024 draft. The second-round pick that goes to the Green Bay Packers is conditional, based on 65% playing time. If Rodgers hits that plateau, it becomes a first-round pick. That appears unlikely given the injury.
ESPN’s Tim Keown contributed to this report.