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Jets’ Sauce Gardner defends Aaron Rodgers amid criticism over minicamp absence

New York Jets star Aaron Rodgers has face some criticism this week over his decision to skip the team’s mandatory minicamp. 

But Rodgers’ teammate Sauce Gardner is coming to the quarterback’s defense. “Are y’all really making a big deal because a 15+ year HOF QB missed 2 days of practice after being with the team all throughout Phase 1, 2, & 3 of OTA’s?? GG’s,” Gardner wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Rodgers did appear at other voluntary offseason workouts prior to this week’s minicamp. He was on hand in late May and early June for the Jets’ organized team activities (OTAs). 

Jets head coach Robert Saleh told reporters on Tuesday that although Rodgers’ absence would be considered unexcused, the quarterback had previously told the team about the conflict in his schedule.

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

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On Wednesday, veteran NFL quarterback Chase Daniel characterized Rodgers’ absence as “expensive.”

“Wait until you hear where Aaron Rodgers is…instead of with his teammates…. That’s an expensive absence,” Daniel wrote on X.

Aaron Rodgers talks to media

Skipping minicamp without an excused absence means players could face fines, under the terms of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

This is not the first time Gardner has expressed support for Rodgers. The two-time Pro Bowl defensive back previously called Rodgers a “natural leader.”

“When he walks into the room, he’s going to shake the room every time,” Gardner said last September. “He’s a natural leader. Great guy to be around. He changed the organization in a lot of ways, for sure.”

Aaron Rodgers attends a Knicks game

Aside from Rodgers, the Jets also had to navigate minicamp without Haason Reddick. The Jets acquired the two-time pass rusher from the Philadelphia Eagles in a trade in April. While Rodgers is skipping mandatory minicamp in order to fulfill other obligations, Reddick appears to be sitting out due to a contract dispute.

The 29-year-old has one year remaining on his contract. The state of his deal had been a sticking point for the past several months, which ultimately led to him being traded.

Saleh wasn’t worried about Reddick’s holdout continuing into training camp, though the two didn’t discuss that, or his contractual status. Despite Reddick not physically being with the team, he has kept the lines of communication open with his head coach.

“Spoke to him over the weekend. I appreciate the dialogue. He’s in a really good place mentally, working his tail off like we already know, but he’s choosing to sit out this one. Inexcused,” Saleh said on Tuesday.

“I’m not concerned about Haason Reddick. I understand everything that’s happening, but at the same time, I know that when it comes time to play football, he’s gonna be ready to play football.”
The Jets open training camp on July 24.

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