Aaron Rodgers can see it now.
There he is, emerging into the light at the end of the stadium tunnel, running out there as a fully functional football player again for the Jets.
“When I visualize it, I’m just visualizing being back on the field, not a specific timeline, not a year, not this year, not next year,” Rodgers said. “It’s being able to run out of the tunnel back onto the field to do exactly what I love.”
Rodgers was at a California rehab center Friday when he appeared on The Pat McAfee Show on YouTube. He reiterated that he intends to play again after tearing his left Achilles on a sack four snaps into his Jets debut on Sept. 11 against the Bills at MetLife Stadium.
The four-time MVP, who will turn 40 on Dec. 2, shed no light on the “when” as far as his return is concerned. And unlike last week on McAfee’s show, he didn’t give an “anything is possible” type of response about returning during the postseason, if there is one with a deep run for the Jets.
His main message was basically this:
I’m not done.
“These type of injuries can take a lot of time,” Rodgers said. “They can be six, eight to 12 months. There’s been a few guys who have come back at 4 1⁄2 . I think Cam Akers came back at 4 1⁄2 [actually 5 1⁄2 two seasons ago with the Rams]. A couple of guys at five months. I don’t want to get into a timeline. I just want to get healthy, honestly. Mentally and physically, honestly.
“But I’m going to do everything I can rehab-wise to put myself in a position to be ready to play football again at some point. That’s the goal.
“Obviously, when this happened, there’s a lot of thoughts about like, ‘Is that it? You just cash it in? You’re done?’ I just don’t feel like I am.”
Rodgers underwent surgery two days after the stunning injury, and his life is all about rehab now.
“I usually like to be the one taking care of people,” he said. “So this is a time for me to kind of sit and receive and try to find some joy in the process.
“It’s tough, though. It’s tough. It’s not easy. But there has been some progressions in the rehab the last couple of days that kind of gets the hope meter kind of trending upwards a little bit, the joy meter trending up a little bit.”
The Jets’ joy meter usually is trending down a little bit after they face the Patriots. OK, down a lot. New England has beaten them 14 straight times. That’s Sunday’s opponent for the 1-1 Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Zach Wilson now is playing the part of Rodgers, and it again is his job to try to help stop the streak against the Patriots, who are 0-2. Wilson went 12-for-27 passing for 170 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions and faced a lot of pressure from the Dallas defense in last Sunday’s 30-10 loss.
“I love Zach,” Rodgers said. “Zach’s my guy. We talk every single day. Just want him to go out and play free and confident this week. Bill Belichick and the Patriots, the Jets haven’t beaten them in a while. Good time to end the streak.”
Rodgers watched the Dallas game. It was depressing.
“It was really tough,” he said. “You’re sitting there knowing you should be out there and disappointed about the whole thing. But cheering on my guys, loving them, and hopefully we bounce back this week.”
Robert Saleh has texted with Rodgers and would love to see him back next week at the Jets’ training complex in New Jersey.
“Really excited for him to get back here,” Saleh said. “Really excited. His presence, just his thoughts and words, he’s a cool individual. So hopefully he gets back next week.”
Rodgers, though, again wasn’t committing to a specific timeline. He said he misses “the guys,” but he wants to be able to walk first.
“Trying to get out of the boot is kind of the next goal,” he said. “So when I feel the strength to be able to stand up on my own and that’s involved with walking, then the boot comes off, and then it kind of gets exciting.”