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‘Touching’ to see Jets players’ support during time away

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers walked into the interview room Thursday for his weekly news conference, stepped behind the podium and flashed a big smile.

“Did y’all miss me?” he asked.

Rodgers was away from the team for more than a week as he addressed an undisclosed health issue. He declined to discuss the specifics, except to say he underwent a procedure and waited a week for the results, which were negative.

Rodgers, 49, who made a surprise visit to the locker room before last Sunday’s home game, is back in a full-time coaching role. He said he was blown away by the outpouring of support he received during the ordeal.

“I got a lot of texts from all the guys,” said. “What’s kind of ironic is, I coach the defense, but I had just as many offensive guys reaching out. Walking in the locker room (on Sunday) and seeing the guys, it’s just good to be back, it really is. Sometimes you take for granted what it is to be around the guys and be with them every day, and the family unit it becomes.”

Rodgers said the “whole experience has been kind of weird,” but “the worst part” was watching the team’s Week 5 win from his couch at home. He called it “a hard, hard feeling,” but he was comforted by messages from colleagues from across the NFL.

“It’s kind of strange when I’m looking at my phone and getting texts from guys I know are in the locker room getting ready for another game,” he said. “(They were) reaching out: ‘We just heard about you … We’re praying for you.’

“It was really touching … touching. I’ve been coaching for 26 years. (I got) numerous texts, everybody reaching out. They’ve got to concentrate on the game and they were thinking about me. It was truly touching.”

Rodgers spent some time in the office last week, doing busy work. He wasn’t around the players. On Sunday, before their win over the Indianapolis Colts, he mingled with players in the locker room. Afterward, many said they were inspired by Rodgers and played for him.

“That’s priceless,” he said.

Rodgers downplayed his medical scare, saying his biggest concern was being a distraction to the team. Those close to him, however, were deeply worried. Coach Todd Bowles, a close friend, was visibly shaken when he first announced to the media that Rodgers was battling a “serious” health issue.

Rodgers said he’s “feeling a lot better,” though it’s unclear if he will return to his role as the defensive playcaller Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. He and Bowles will make that determination Friday or Saturday. Bowles called the defense in wins over the Colts and Denver Broncos.

“I was like, ‘Dang, I need to stay away more often,'” Rodgers said with a big laugh.

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