Dennis Wazak, Jr. Associated Press
Florham Park, NJ — Loud “Aaron!” Rogers! The chanting began almost as soon as the New York Jets quarterback stepped onto the practice field.
The cheers turned deafening on Saturday when Rodgers gave a quick wave of thanks to his fans.
“That’s my QB! Let’s go!” someone shouted.
“Surreal!” said another.
The third practice of the Jets’ training camp marked the first session open to the public, giving nearly 2,000 enthusiastic fans a first-hand look at the team’s new quarterback.
“It’s very exciting. You can feel the energy from the fans,” said Claudio Juarez, 43, of Queens, New York. “I wake up in the morning and I’m like, ‘Hello, Mr. Rogers!’ It’s hype, it’s inspiring, it’s a lot of optimism that has been lacking. ”
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Rodgers then put on a show with great practice, including accurate passes and some surprising throws.
“I’m happy to have a competitive team,” said Phil DeMeo, 30, from Staten Island, New York City. “I don’t want the Super Bowl or bankruptcy. I want a playoff win. A playoff win at home would be great.”
New York acquired Rodgers from Green Bay in April, and the four-time NFL MVP hopes to end the league’s longest playoff drought in 12 years.
And it will probably bring the Jets back to the Super Bowl, something they haven’t done since Joe Namath’s glory days in 1969.
“Hey, I’m excited,” said Greg Mascaro, a 30-year-old fan and eight-year season ticket holder from Staten Island. “We’ve got this. We’re going all the way this year. Rogers, Sauce (Gardner), Garrett (Wilson) — the boys are going to cook. It’s in.”
The Jets have a lot of work to do before thinking about the postseason. But it’s the kind of optimism that comes from among a fanbase hungry for a winner, even at 39, to have a quarterback with Rodgers’ credentials.
Ira Max, 72, a 45-year season ticket holder from Wyckoff, N.J., said, “I want to start over.” She said, “Everything we’ve done so far hasn’t worked out, but maybe this is the time it all works out. The stars are aligned.
“If you’re going back 45 years, you have to have hope, right?”
That’s what Rodgers speaks for the many disgruntled fans who have waited patiently for the Jets to become true Super Bowl contenders once again.
“For a lot of people who’ve been on roller coasters, it’s been hard, it’s been fun, but it’s never been steady,” said Juarez, founder of the Jets fan club Gotham City Crew. “You could feel the kind of excitement, the long lines and how early people got here.
Tickets for the first four practices of training camp are free and were handed out in three minutes earlier this week. Fans will have a chance to get tickets to five of his other sessions later this summer.
Director Robert Saleh said, “I hope the fans will come.” “It’s easy for the coaches, because now they’re excited to be in the game. But you have to try to keep them focused and even if the fans aren’t there…but I love it when they start chanting.”
Several “Jet!” Jets! Jets! jet! ” There were cheers throughout the practice.
While the capacity remains the same as in previous years, the Jets have made some adjustments to the fan experience. These include providing additional sun protection and shade as well as improving sight lines. It’s been in high demand, especially from people wanting to see Rodgers practice this summer.
The primary viewing area for fans includes stadium-style seating and overhangs. There are also multiple viewing areas for fans, with a total of 1,500 seats spread over two floors. Fans can also stand outside the field during practice.
Rodgers thrilled the fans with a touchdown pass to Tyler Conklin and a throw to Corey Davis for a two-point conversion in team practice in the red zone. He finished practice with a toss, which was scored by Mekor Hardman with a spectacular leaping grab for a touchdown.
“I’m really excited to have a really good team,” DeMeo said, adding that general manager Joe Douglas made significant improvements to the roster in the offseason. “Rogers kind of parachuted in, so I hope he’s that guy because he’s been a guy all his career.
“We needed a quarterback. I hope we have a quarterback here.”
Gardner presents Rogers with diamond number 8
Gardner hinted Friday that he plans to give Rodgers a gift to officially welcome him to the Jets, but didn’t specify what he received as quarterback.
On Saturday, the team tweeted a video that appeared to show Gardner and Rodgers at the facility gym and the second-year cornerback holding a small shopping bag. Gardner explained to Rodgers that his jeweler was a big QB fan and wanted to create something special for him.
Gardner, who made a fashion statement at last year’s NFL Draft wearing a diamond-encrusted “SAUCE” medallion, pulled out a chain with a large number 8 medallion in white diamonds framed in green gems.
Rodgers instructed Gardner to hang the present around his neck and the quarterback posed.
“Thank you. I appreciate it,” Rogers said, hugging Gardner.
Browns open camp in mountains
The Brown family is spending a week in the mountains.
Seeking to avoid outside distractions and perhaps create more chemistry between players, Cleveland began training camp at the Greenbrier Resort, a swanky vacation spot in West Virginia that has been used by other NFL teams in the past.
Manager Kevin Stefanski hopes the time away will bring the team together as they build expectations and prepare for the season.
The Browns earned another week of training camp to face the New York Jets in the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 3.