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Jets QB Zach Wilson says he's 'very appreciative' of Aaron Rodgers: 'I am learning a lot of football'

After two years, the Jets decided quarterback Zach Wilson wasn't good enough to lead them to victory, and they replaced him with Aaron Rodgers for the 2023 season.

Wilson, though, remains on the roster, seated behind Rodgers on the depth chart. Many quarterbacks would bristle at such an idea, but not Wilson, who saw Rodgers' arrival as a unique opportunity to learn from one of the game's greats.

"It's interesting, right? Of course I wish things had gone differently the past two years and I would've played amazing," Wilson told reporters on Friday in his first press session since the trade that brought Rodgers to New York.

"But I truly believe everything happens for a reason. Aaron knows this, but he's someone I've looked up to since I can remember playing football. So, I'm very appreciative of him and how much he is willing to help me because he really doesn't need to be that vocal. He honestly truly is an amazing friend, and obviously such an amazing quarterback, so I am learning a lot of football.

"Not just from him, but (offensive coordinator Nathaniel) Hackett, (passing game coordinator Todd) Downing, our whole offensive staff. I've been really enjoying it."

Wilson arrived in New York in 2021 as the second-overall pick, selected as the face of the franchise's future. The former BYU passer had a tough time staying on the field due to injuries in his first season, though, and sophomore season struggles prompted the Jets to act aggressively to address the position. Patience was no longer possible, not with New York's young core demonstrating the Jets had enough quality pieces to legitimately contend.

Enter Rodgers, a veteran with four NFL MVPs to his name and a Lombardi Trophy in his case who desired a fresh start with a team he believed would be able to chase another title. Rodgers decided the Jets were that team, communicating to the Packers his desire to be sent to New York as he approaches his 40th birthday.

Rodgers' arrival meant Wilson would have no choice but to recede into the shadows, left to soak up as much information as possible from Rodgers. The two have gotten along great, and Wilson says he's already benefiting from their time spent as teammates.

"Of course I would like to be the guy, so at first, you know, you're not always happy about that. But I'm extremely psyched that of any quarterback they could've brought in, it was him," Wilson said on Friday. "I'd been talking with him this offseason. I was with him early in the offseason before any of this was even getting talked about. So we got to spend some time together. It was really cool to see how it all went together.

"I have to look at kind of where I'm at as a quarterback and how I can look to be the best I can be, and I do think this can be a big part of it. What he brings to the table, what coach Hackett and Downing bring to the table could be really good for me and my development. And then this offense, of course, too."

The public has held Wilson to a quote he delivered prior to the Jets' acquisition of Rodgers, in which he promised to make the new guy's life "hell." It hasn't quite been that for Rodgers, though, which is likely a good thing.

The typically cranky Rodgers has adopted a new demeanor with the Jets, transforming from a seemingly bitter veteran to a rejuvenated leader of his new team and going so far as telling reporters Friday "the last six weeks have been about the most fun I've had in a while." That includes his interactions with Wilson, whom the Jets still hope will be able to succeed Rodgers and become the player they hoped they were getting when selecting him near the top of the 2021 draft.

"He's been incredible. He hasn't made my life hell every day," Rodgers joked about Wilson. "He's been a joy to work with, and I give him so much credit because it's a tough situation. What he went through, the frustration last year. Probably a lot of the words he heard from people and if he's checking social media … that can be tough sometimes to deal with that. I think as a young player, the confidence is so important.

"So, my job, Hack's job, Rob's job, Todd's job, is just to continue to encourage him and help him build that confidence back up. But I think if he can step back and look at what he's accomplished this offseason and see where he's at from the first day I got here, which wasn't the first day, to this last day, I think he's done incredibly well. The key for him is just growth and learning, and then kind of building everything back up. I think we stripped down some of his fundamentals, and I think you've seen him throw the ball on time and make accurate throws and make good decisions, I love it.

"Sometimes the best thing to happen is like what happened -- I popped my calf, and then I'm up on the shelf for a few days, and he gets a chance to take a ton of reps and make some mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. Him and I had a good friendship coming in. We spent some time together off the field, and I have a lot of love for him. And even more respect for the way that he's handled things and made me feel welcome and important. And also just been in my hip pocket learning. Ton of questions. In the locker room, in the meeting room after hours. I love that, because I feel like that's a big part of my role here to not just play at a super high level for this team and help us win, but to make sure he's ready when his time comes, and I really enjoy that opportunity."

As Wilson learns from a legend, Rodgers is preparing to deliver on the expectations set by his move from Green Bay to New York. The Jets are still two months out from truly producing results, but they're heading into their summer break with plenty of optimism -- and most importantly, zero toxicity in their quarterbacks room.

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