In his eagerly awaited New York Jets debut on Monday, NFL great Aaron Rodgers managed only four plays before sustaining what might be a season-ending injury, but the Jets nonetheless rallied for a stirring 22-16 home victory over Buffalo.
Rodger, a four-time Most Valuable Player in the NFL, hurt his left ankle after being sacked early in the first quarter by Leonard Floyd of the Buffalo Bills.
Although an X-ray revealed no broken bones, he entered the locker room with his left foot in a walking boot.
The 39-year-old’s NFL season could be over if an MRI on Tuesday confirms he has a torn Achilles tendon, according to Jets coach Robert Saleh and the team.
“Concerned with his Achilles,” Saleh said. “MRI is probably going to confirm what we think is already going to happen. So prayers tonight, but it’s not good.”
Saleh claimed that despite losing Rodgers from the field, the Jets made an effort to celebrate their victory, which was secured by Xavier Gipson’s 65-yard overtime punt return.
“I’m going to enjoy this win,” Saleh said. “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 of this.”
More than 83,000 spectators watched Rodgers, who spent 18 years with Green Bay before being traded to the Jets in April, leave after just over three minutes, AFP reported.
Rodgers threw an incompletion after a run play, which was later erased by a Buffalo holding penalty. He was sacked by Floyd for a 10-yard loss when his leg twisted awkwardly. After a minute of pain on the ground, he was examined and taken to the locker room.
Gipson’s dramatic punt return rescued a victory for the Jets in the same clutch fashion Rodgers had taken so many Packers’ triumphs.
“I seen the ball in the air and I seen I had a shot,” Gipson said of his remarkable runback. “I had an opportunity and I just took it.”
Despite being taken off the field due to his injury, Rodgers seemed to have made an impact on a Jets team that trailed 13-3 at halftime.
“The energy got low,” Gipson said. “In the locker room, he didn’t show no signs of disappointment. He encouraged me. I looked in his eyes. He gave me a look. I was thinking, ‘Let’s win this game for A-Rod.'”
Ultimately, they did as the Jets defensive unit forced four turnovers from Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen and getting a touchdown pass from reserve quarterback Zach Wilson to Garrett Wilson in the fourth quarter.
“There’s no recovering from something like that, with a guy who has an impact like he does in our locker room,” Garrett Wilson said. “Seeing him go down and then going in and seeing him at halftime, it’s tough and it’s something you hate to see. I’m praying for Aaron and his recovery.
“Zach rallied the troops, did what he had to do and we rallied in the second half. Zach brought us together and that was everything we needed.”