Aaron Rodgers' absence from Jets minicamp 'unexcused,' head coach Robert Saleh says

The New York Jets opened their mandatory minicamp Tuesday short two Pro Bowl members of their roster. Neither absence, head coach Robert Saleh said, was excused.

Saleh said he spoke over the weekend with defensive tackle Haason Reddick, who has sat out team activities while seeking a new contract but is "in a really good place mentally, working his tail off."

Four-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers was also absent.

“Aaron and I spoke before OTAs started,” Saleh said in a pre-practice media conference. “He’s been very good in communication. He’s been here the entire time. It’s unexcused, but he had an event that was very important to him, which he communicated.”

Saleh confirmed that both players were subject to fines from the collective bargaining agreement since the team did not excuse their absences. This three-day minicamp is the only spring event considered mandatory and thus fineable before training camp begins in late July.

Saleh said Rodgers “communicated a while ago” that he would be absent and the team is not concerned about his development and playbook mastery entering Year 20 of his NFL career. Second-string quarterback Tyrod Taylor, in his first Jets offseason, was scheduled to take first-team snaps.

“I think it will be more beneficial for Tyrod than a loss for Aaron,” Saleh said.

Rodgers is far from the first high-profile player to miss a minicamp practice as players increasingly decide to hold out and take a stance against spring practices, in contract negotiations or both.

But Rodgers, intentionally or unintentionally, put his attendance under a microscope when in January he said the Jets needed to “flush the bulls***” and eliminate “anything in the building that we’re doing individually or collectively that has nothing to do with real winning.”

Critics will question whether missing mandatory minicamp aligns with that goal.

Rodgers spoke in May about his eventful offseason that included a potential vice presidential candidacy on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s ticket. Rodgers said his consideration as a candidate was "a real thing" and he had "a couple of nice conversations" with Kennedy.

“But there are really two options: It was retire and be his VP, or keep playing,” Rodgers said, “and I wanted to keep playing.”

Rodgers' connection to the Kennedy campaign led some to wonder whether the "event that was very important to" Rodgers was a campaign event. The Kennedy campaign website does not list any events for Tuesday or Wednesday, though Kennedy is scheduled to attend a Thursday reception in Southern California, where Rodgers has a home.

Rodgers was at the Jets' facility as recently as Monday, Saleh confirmed, when he took a physical and fulfilled his media day requirements.

Saleh said he was not disappointed about Rodgers’ minicamp absence.

“Again, selfishly I want all of our guys here all the time, but when you get to these mandatory things, you make the best decision for yourself,” Saleh said. “He made a decision and that’s what he went with.

“He had something that was very important to him, and if it’s important to him, it’s important to us.”

Rodgers, who played just four snaps last season before tearing his Achilles tendon, said he does not believe his offseason podcast appearances and candidacy considerations conflicted with his message about eliminating distractions.

“I respect those opinions, but those are offseason things and those are real opportunities,” Rodgers said May 21. “Once the season starts, it’s all about football.”

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