GREEN BAY, Wis. — Zach Wilson has studied Aaron Rodgers for years, but on Wednesday he stepped on the field with the future Hall of Famer and had to remind himself he was no longer just a fan in Utah but one of Rodgers’ peers.
“We’re all technically at the same level now, we’re all in the NFL, but we’re all kind of like, ‘That’s Aaron Rodgers, that’s kind of crazy,’ ” the rookie Jets quarterback said. “It’s still a great tool for us just to be able to learn from him and kind of see what he’s doing.”
The Jets and Packers got together Wednesday for the first of two joint practices leading into their preseason game Saturday at Lambeau Field. Rodgers was Wilson’s favorite player when he was growing up and someone to whom he has been compared.
Wilson and Rodgers were on opposite ends of the practice field for most of the practice Wednesday, with the Jets’ offense facing the Packers’ defense and vice versa. The two did come together to chat during the special-teams periods.
“Zach’s a good kid,” Rodgers said. “It was fun to see him. I got to talk to him various times throughout the offseason. It’s good having these guys in. I’ve known coach [Robert] Saleh for a while, played against him, obviously, a number of times.”
Rodgers did not just talk to Wilson but also backup quarterbacks Mike White, James Morgan and Josh Johnson, and Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, the brother of Rodgers’ head coach, Matt LaFleur.
Since the Jets run a similar offensive system, Rodgers asked about the Jets’ play calls to see what carryover there was and to give them a few pointers.
“I wanted to talk to Mike and Zach about the operation a little bit,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, I’ve been around a long time and called my own two-minute for a number of years, well over a decade. So, I wanted to give them a couple of things to think about on their own. [Mike LaFleur is] a first-time coordinator. [Wilson is] a first-time starter. There’s just some things in the operation that I felt like I could help with.
“That’s the best part about this, just getting to see other guys you know about and get to meet and talk ball is fun.”
Rodgers and Wilson have spoken by phone before. Rodgers tried to recruit Wilson to his agency last year when Wilson was picking an agent. Rodgers said they chatted a few times this offseason.
“He’s a cool guy,” Wilson said. “He came up to me, I’ve talked to him before in the past and he’s got a lot of knowledge, he’s a smart dude, he knows what’s going on out there. It’s cool to ask him about footwork, what’s going on on the field, what he’s seeing. If I could spend more time with him and just keep asking questions, I would.”
Wilson said he would watch the film of Rodgers facing the Jets’ defense on Wednesday. The one portion of practice that Wilson was on the same field with Rodgers for was a two-minute drill at the end of practice. Rodgers picked apart the Jets’ defense and threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling with no defenders in sight.
“I’d say the biggest thing I picked up was two-minute drill, just how calm and collected he is,” Wilson said. “He’s kind of just out there, almost like he’s just messing around, playing backyard football. He’s having a good time and he makes it work.”
So what part of Rodgers’ game would Wilson like to duplicate?
“That’s tough,” Wilson said. “Obviously, the way he throws the ball is amazing, but I wouldn’t say that’s something you necessarily need to be as successful as he is. I would just say the way he understands the game, kind of what’s going on, the way he’s able to change things, pick things up and still stay calm is pretty impressive.”
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