Dec 10, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) on the field after the game against the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday’s episode of The Pat McAfee Show, Aaron Rodgers all but confirmed what anyone with a working knowledge of serious injuries has already known for months: that he won’t be playing football again during the 2023 NFL season.

“I’m still 14 weeks tomorrow from my surgery,” Rodgers said during his weekly appearance program. “And being medically cleared as 100 percent healed is just not realistic.”

You mean recovering from a torn Achilles in less than four months isn’t a realistic expectation to set? To quote a hot dog costume-wearing Tim Robinson: We’re trying find the guy who did this.

While it’s no secret that the ESPN news cycle often feeds itself, Rodgers’ weekly paid spots on The Pat McAfee Show this season have taken that strategy to another level. Just days after suffering his injury during the first series of the Jets’ season opener, the 4-time MVP began hinting at a potentially remarkable comeback, telling McAfee he had a “pretty damn good rehab plan” and that the timetable for such a return might “shock some people.”

From there, Rogers offered periodic updates on his recovery timeline, which were often vague and usually unchecked. Images of the 40-year-old quarterback walking without assistance and throwing passes only fueled speculation that he was in the midst of a miraculous comeback, as it’s not often that a player recovering from a serious injury is so front and center in situations where he knew cameras would be.

To be fair to McAfee and ESPN, they weren’t the only ones to siphon Rodgers’ ambitious comeback for content. During a game between the Jets and Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday Night Football on Nov. 13, NBC’s Melissa Stark reported that Rodgers was targeting a mid-December return. Rodgers disputed that report two days later on McAfee’s show, despite seemingly being the source of it.

The madness didn’t stop there, and even reached the point where some theorized that Rodgers didn’t actually tear his Achilles. Through it all, the former Packers star did just enough to make everybody think a comeback this season was still feasible, despite the fact that no NFL player has returned from the injury in less than five months (and those comebacks were considered miraculous in their own right).

While Rodgers’ approach to all of this was curious, it also shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone who’s followed him the past few years. In many ways, this was the perfect storm for football’s most famous immunized quarterback: an opportunity to not only defy the doubters, but also science.

At this point, it would also be fair to accuse Rodgers of attention-seeking behavior. After all, he was quick to try to jumpstart a feud with Travis Kelce after the star tight end began dating Taylor Swift. And he’s seemingly the last person in sports still ranting about COVID-19 and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

An aging quarterback recovering from a torn Achilles doesn’t move the needle. But an aging quarterback changing everything we thought we knew about serious injuries? Rodgers was apparently onto something.

The only problem, however, was that the rent was always going to come due. And that’s exactly what happened this week with Wednesday marking the deadline for the Jets to activate Rodgers or leave him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. That New York has already been eliminated from postseason contention made it an easy decision. It was also a convenient — if not expected — out.

If there was anything surprising about Rodgers’ comments on Tuesday, it’s that he admitted that such a timetable for his recovery was unrealistic. Rather, he made it sound like he only would have been able to come back had the Jets made a deep playoff run. At which point, the timetable for his recovery would have been merely just impressive as opposed to miraculous.

But while Rodgers may not have defied science this season, what he did do was nothing short of remarkable. Despite only playing four snaps this season, he still managed to be one of the NFL’s main characters. Thanks to a little help from his friends.

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.