Jets QB Aaron Rodgers says Kobe Bryant inspired choice of Achilles surgeon on ‘Thursday Night Football’ pregame show

Aaron Rodgers won’t return from his Achilles injury this season, but the Jets star quarterback did everything in his power to get back on the field.

You know the story by now: New York traded for the four-time MVP in hopes that he could elevate its team to Super Bowl contender status with a strong defense and some talented pieces on offense. On the first drive of his Jets career, Rodgers suffered a torn Achilles.

Even at 40 years old, Rodgers made it his personal goal to try and make the quickest return any professional sport has ever seen from an injury that serious.

As the season went on, Rodgers continued to tease that he might get back on the field if the Jets remained in the playoff picture. New York opened his 21-day practice window and the gunslinger participated in some drills on the field, but it couldn’t pick up the wins necessary to stay in the postseason hunt.

As his 21-day practice window came to a close, Rodgers announced that he would not return this season even though the Jets elected to keep him on the active roster.

Ahead of New York’s primetime “Thursday Night Football” game against the Browns, Rodgers spoke on how he immediately looked to Kobe Bryant for inspiration in his recovery process. He also reminded everyone, again, that he feels he could have been suiting up tonight if the Jets were still on the fringe of the playoff picture.

MORE: Follow live as Browns take on Jets as Cleveland looks to clinch playoff berth on ‘TNF’

Aaron Rodgers says Kobe Bryant inspired his choice of Achilles surgeon

Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” has become a blueprint for athletes of all ages, inspiring everyone with his obsessive competitiveness. Very few can forget the time Kobe stepped to the free throw line just after tearing his Achilles, knocking down both attempts before heading to the locker room and receiving his unfortunate diagnosis.

At 34 years old, it would have been easy for Bryant to hang it up as a five-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, one-time MVP, 15-time All-Star and two-time scoring champion.

Instead, he powered through the grueling injury recovery — one that he later called “my personal Mount Everest” in his memoir — to get back on the court for three more partial seasons.

When Rodgers suffered his Achilles at age 39 going on 40, he faced a similar challenge. He already had four NFL MVPs and a Super Bowl trophy, but he wasn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet.

On Amazon Prime’s “Thursday Night Football” pregame show, he said the first thing he did was Google search “Kobe Bryant” to find out the doctor who performed the surgery on his Achilles.

“When I was sitting on the table in the locker room after I came off the field on Sept. 11, I immediately Google-searched ‘Kobe Bryant’ because Kobe is a favorite of probably most of ours. I actually didn’t realize that [Dr.] Neal [ElAttrache] had done his surgery. So, the next thing I did was text Neal and say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna come see you,” Rodgers said.

Dr. Neal ElAttrache has become one of the most famous surgeons in sports, working on all-time greats like Bryant, Tom Brady and Shohei Ohtani.

MORE: Who is Dr. Neal ElAttrache? Meet the famed sports doctor who operated on Aaron Rodgers, Shohei Ohtani

“Neal is a fantastic doctor,” Rodgers continued. “Not just his incredible skill but also his bedside manner. The way he takes care of his patients and keeps in touch with them. He’s an incredible human being. He did a great surgery on me.

“From the start, I said, ‘Listen, I know what the normal protocols are and I know I got Father Time working against me but let’s cut everything in half and see what we can do with that.’”

Rodgers went on to explain more detail about the surgery before saying he still felt like he could have made a return if the Jets were still in the playoff race.

“I wanted to at least be in the conversation [to make a return this season]. I think we basically did that. If things had been different with our record, I might be playing tonight instead of sitting my butt on this bench talking to you guys,” he said while laughing.

The Jets may not get Rodgers back for the final two games of the 2023 season, but everything is looking up for him to make a return to the field in 2024.

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