A player from the New York Jets voted for the team’s „Most Inspirational Player Award“ – named after Dennis Byrd, the defensive end who was paralyzed during a game in 1992 and had to relearn how to walk – for Aaron Rodgers, the guy who tore his Achilles four snaps into Gang Green’s opener and swore to return but didn’t.
Rodgers received the award mainly for his comeback after an Achilles tendon surgery on September 13. Only two and a half months later, he returned to practice but never played in a game. Rodgers later admitted on The Pat McAfee Show that „a medical clearance of 100% healing just isn’t realistic.“
If that’s the case, then what was the point of this award in the first place? Byrd broke his neck in a head-on collision during a game in November 1992. The defensive end was left unable to walk due to the injury and had to undergo extensive physical therapy. While he learned to walk again, Byrd never played football again. His final achievement as a Jet was stepping onto the field for the coin toss at the 1993 home opener.
Byrd’s number 90 was officially retired by the Jets in 2012, though it had been informally retired since his injury. He spent years after his injury traveling the country and telling his story as a motivational speaker. Byrd even sent the then-head coach Rex Ryan the jersey he had been wearing on the day of the accident during the 2011 playoffs in New York. Ryan was so honored that he had Byrd come in the night before the road playoff game against the New England Patriots to address the team. The Jets went on to defeat the Patriots 28-21, their last playoff win.
Byrd’s story is inspirational. Trying to walk again after less than a year from a paralyzing injury is an achievement deserving of an award named after him. Until his death in 2016, he continued to inspire others.
It tarnishes that name to give it to Rodgers, a man who appeared weekly on network television – in the same show where he selected fights with Dr. Anthony Fauci and made false connections between Jimmy Kimmel and Jeffrey Epstein – promising a comeback that never really materialized. Rodgers came closest to a comeback by intercepting as a scout team linebacker in practice. Yes, it’s impressive to do so two months after an Achilles tendon surgery, but it doesn’t really contribute to helping the team win.
It seems NYJ head coach Robert Saleh sees it differently.
„I’ve said it a million times, he loves his teammates and his teammates love him,“ Saleh said. „He goes about every person in the building with such a conscientious approach. He’s very considerate in the way he does things, and he’s a great human being. He truly earned this award.“