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Saleh calls Rodgers’ presence ‘his superpower’

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Saleh calls Rodgers’ presence ‘his superpower’

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — One day later, the New York Jets still were buzzing about Aaron Rodgers — his impromptu throwing session before the game, his role on the sideline and his potential impact in the coming weeks.

“His superpower is his presence,” coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “Him being in this building, being around his teammates, being in the locker room, his positive attitude, his thoughts of manifestation and all that stuff, I think it’s powerful.”

Rodgers, only five weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, stunned onlookers by showing up to MetLife Stadium on Sunday without crutches and throwing for five minutes on the field about two hours before the 20-14 upset of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Instead of watching from a private box, Rodgers remained on the sideline, wore a headset and contributed to the in-game conversation between offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and other assistants. For safety reasons, injured players usually aren’t permitted on the sideline, but he got clearance from the Jets on Saturday.

“I guess you’d have to ask Hackett on how much it actually provides,” Saleh said of Rodgers’ in-game input, “but I definitely know he’s got thoughts and I know he’s helping the quarterback the best he can. So him having a headset on, I can tell you this much: It doesn’t hurt.”

Zach Wilson, who replaced Rodgers when the four-time MVP suffered the injury on the fourth play of the season, said he didn’t have much interaction with him on the sideline. But they talked at halftime. Like the rest of his teammates, Wilson was impressed that Rodgers was able to walk without aid and throw a football this soon after surgery.

“Yeah, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “I mean, that dude’s demeanor, the way he attacks everything, is special. So I’m not surprised at all.”

Rodgers, 39, didn’t have a walking boot; he wore regular sneakers, though he might have used lifts in his left shoe to elevate his heel and take pressure off his Achilles. He has said his goal is to play again this season, which would mean less than four months of recovery time — unprecedented for an NFL player with an Achilles tear. The Jets (3-3), riding a two-game winning streak, believe he can help the team by merely being around.

“As a coach, of course, selfishly, I want him here every single day,” Saleh said. “I want him in every meeting. I want him on the practice field. I want him on the sideline. I want him in the locker room because he’s an unbelievable human. Outside of scheme and playing ability, the intangibles that he brings to his teammates, and the fuel I think his teammates will give to him, is priceless. You just can’t quantify it. You can’t put a price on it.”

Rodgers, who arrived in late April via a blockbuster trade with the Green Bay Packers, quickly galvanized the team with his hugs-and-high-fives style of leadership. After the injury, he went home to California for Sept. 13 surgery and rehab, returning to New Jersey briefly to catch the Oct. 1 loss to the Kansas Chiefs. He watched that game from a box.

On Sunday, he got close to the action, watching as the Jets intercepted Jalen Hurts three times and shut out the Eagles (5-1) in the second half to energize a team whose season seemed dead only two weeks ago.

“He’s already a Hall of Fame quarterback and he’s somebody that always seems to thrive when he’s doubted,” tight end Tyler Conklin said. “Whether it was all the way back to being passed up in the draft by — who was it, Alex Smith? — to waiting behind Brett Favre to now at this point in his career, hurting his Achilles after everything that went on in this offseason. … It’s going to be exciting to just see him finish writing his story because he loves proving people wrong.”

Wide receiver Allen Lazard, who played with Rodgers in Green Bay, said it’s “comforting” and “encouraging” to see him around the team, knowing “how gruesome that injury is and the recovery process for it.” Most players need six to nine months to make it back.

Saleh said he has talked to people who have had Achilles surgery, and they all say that Rodgers has progressed at an exceptional rate.

“I’ve never had an Achilles tear — hopefully, I never do, I don’t want to ruin my golf game — but from my understanding, him walking around is crazy,” the coach said.

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