Aaron Rodgers looks to have been given a new lease of life upon being traded for the New York Jets.
It appears a burden has been lifted from his shoulders, with the 39-year-old quarterback seen joking with teammates and a smile often plastered on his face.
However, there was nothing Rodgers could do as he sat on the sidelines while his Jets lost to the Cleveland Browns in the traditional NFL season curtain-raiser, the Hall of Fame game.
Rodgers was rested as the Jets lost 21-16 on Thursday night, with Cleveland mounting a second-half comeback to claim the first preseason victory of the 2023 season.
In a game which was lacking most of its star talent – Rodgers and Browns starting quarterback Deshaun Watson included – it presented an opportunity for the rotation and fringe players to make a case for themselves.
And Browns’ rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson made the most of his opportunity, starting the whole of the second half and leading two touchdown scoring drives to make the race for the team’s back-up quarterback closer than previously thought.
With Rodgers not playing, attention turned to Jets quarterback Zach Wilson after a disappointing time with the team since being picked No. 2 overall in 2021.
Wilson, playing on his 24th birthday, showed glimpses of why he was so highly regarded during the draft process in his brief foray on the field, going 3-for-5 for 65 passing yards and setting up the game’s first score with a 57-yard completion to wide receiver Malik Taylor.
But it was fifth-round rookie Thompson-Robinson who stole the show with his pair of second-half touchdowns, putting Cleveland ahead when his 22-yard touchdown pass found Austin Watkins Jr. with just over nine minutes left.
The game was disrupted in the fourth quarter when a section of the lights in the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium went out, descending the pitch into darkness.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski and Jets coach Robert Saleh met with game officials at midfield while the problem was dealt with. The contest was delayed for approximately 15 minutes before restarting.