EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers strolled the New York Jets’ sideline on crutches, greeting his teammates and coaches as well as members of the Chiefs a few hours before Kansas City’s 23-20 victory Sunday night.
The four-time NFL MVP arrived at MetLife Stadium in a golf cart holding crutches — his first public appearance since tearing his left Achilles tendon four snaps into his debut with the Jets on Sept. 11 against Buffalo.
With players from both the Jets and Chiefs warming up, Rodgers sat on a bench in a white, long-sleeved T-shirt and black shorts and wearing sunglasses. He chatted for several minutes with NBC’s Mike Tirico before getting up and receiving a few hugs from teammates. Rodgers was able to stand on his own and took a few steps along the sideline to retrieve his crutches.
Rodgers chatted with Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich before Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce came over and greeted the quarterback and the two shared a few laughs. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes later jogged over to give Rodgers a hug and they spoke for a few minutes.
The 39-year-old quarterback headed back inside about an hour before kickoff, but later returned and chatted with coach Robert Saleh on the sideline. Rodgers watched the game from a suite in the stadium with owner Woody Johnson.
NBC’s Melissa Stark said Rodgers told her “his plan is to rejoin the team permanently after their Week 7 bye. And he told me his goal is to play again this season.”
Rodgers attended a team meeting at the Jets’ hotel Saturday night, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team didn’t announce Rodgers had rejoined his teammates.
Rodgers had been healing and rehabilitating at home in Malibu, California, after having surgery 2 1/2 weeks ago.
Rodgers hinted earlier this week during his weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” he could make his first public appearance since the injury if he was cleared by doctors to travel.
“You never know who you’re going to see at the game,” Rodgers said with a grin.
It was unclear if he was referring to himself or pop superstar Taylor Swift, who attended the game in support of Kelce — or perhaps both. It’s not the first time Rodgers and Swift were at MetLife Stadium at the same time — the quarterback attended two of her concert performances at the stadium in May.
Rodgers’ teammates were excited about the idea of him rejoining them, even if he can’t play.
“That would be awesome to have as good of a football mind as he is around the team for, you know, someone like me to be able to bounce my thoughts off and see what he’s thinking,” wide receiver Garrett Wilson said Friday. “To have him around, the energy, the aura that he comes with, I mean, it’s priceless, man. So as soon as we can get him back, his presence will be felt.
“And, I look forward to that. I hope it is this weekend.”
Two days after the injury, Rodgers had surgery performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. There were reports Rodgers had a “speed bridge” procedure, which is designed to accelerate the rehabilitation process.
The quarterback wouldn’t go into specifics during a recent appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” on the procedure or his rehab, saying only: “Some of the things that were reported about the type of surgery I got was factual. Some of the stuff was not entirely factual.”
Rodgers said he wouldn’t put a timeline on a return to play football, but has said he’d use anyone doubting him as motivation in his rehabilitation.
Zach Wilson made his third straight start in place of Rodgers on Sunday night.
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