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Carolina Panthers

Aaron Rodgers a "fan" of Bryce Young, and vice versa

Jets and Panthers quarterbacks

SPARTANBURG — The conversation between two players before practice was no big deal, completely ordinary. Just a couple of dudes hanging out, sharing their stories, the older one offering a few tips to the other one before wishing him luck and going on his way.

Totally normal.

Other than the fact that one of those dudes was 39-year-old Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the other one was 22-year-old No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, and there was a boom mic hanging over their heads for the duration of their conversation because of the circus that came with the Jets as the subject of Hard Knocks.

That didn't keep them from catching up, just a couple of quarterbacks talking ball, and Young seemed somewhere bordering starstruck, to be having a peer-to-peer conversation with one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

"Yeah, he came up to me before practice," the Panthers' rookie quarterback said. "We exchanged some words here, which was super cool, for me, a really great experience. And I'm excited for tomorrow as well, to be able to keep watching them and learn from him. So it was more just general talk, he talked a little about his experience, and wished me luck and asked me about how things were going, and we both were warming up. So we both kind of had to get back to our teams' periods, but just for him to take the time and to come out and to say something, it was really appreciated. So, I have the utmost respect for him.

"I think you could just tell the command, how in control he is, how confident he is in all that he does. And just the efficiency and decision making, making quick decisions. He knows where to go with the ball and definitely has a great presence about him in the pocket. So again, there's I have the utmost respect for him."

A lot of that last part is stuff other people say about Young as well, and Rodgers made it clear he appreciated his young counterpart's work.

During portions of practice they weren't involved in, Rodgers stood alongside Panthers wide receiver Adam Thielen, catching up with an old friend. And apparently, a lot of the suspicions Rodgers had about Young were confirmed.

"I've known about him for a long time," Rodgers said. "I loved watching him in college. I like his demeanor. I like his movement. I like the way he throws. I trust a guy like Adam; you know him and I have been good buddies for a long time. And he just raved about him. So I think Carolina is in good hands, starting his career. . . .

"I just wanted to get to talk to him and tell him what a fan I am of his. I love how he carries himself."

Hearing that Rodgers described himself as "a fan" was a lot for Young to process, as he seemed genuinely taken aback by that.

"That was definitely an honor to hear someone who I've definitely been a big fan of his for a long, long time now," Young said. "So you know, hearing that really, it definitely was great to hear. It definitely does mean a lot to me."

Their on-field conversation might have been a short one, and beyond the mutual admiration, the differences in their experiences are vast. Rodgers is nearing the end of his career and seemed relieved to be in New York after a tumultuous end to his time in Green Bay.

So the older, wiser Rodgers offered a bit of advice to the young one.

"Be gentle with yourself," Rodgers said. "It's a long journey. It feels like every little snap and practice is the end of the world if it doesn't go right. It's just not true.

"It's a long, long journey. It's about holding on to your confidence, and enjoying the ride, and enjoying little things every day. But I think he's got a great head on his shoulders, and he'll be just fine."

Young is, too, for lack of a better word, young to have hit any of the potholes which Rodgers has gone through. But he appreciated hearing it.

"Again, when you talk about someone like Aaron Rodgers, who's had so much success and for so long, any advice that he gives, I'm definitely going to be receptive to and listen to. I'll definitely take that into account."

And while they're on either end of the spectrum of experience, there are other common threads beyond a shared agent or job description.

Aaron Rodgers

Many of the things Rodgers is proven to be good at parallel the things Young appears to have the capability to be good at.

The poise in the pocket, the awareness of assignments and their surroundings, and the ability to improvise are traits they share.

Young has also shown the ability to get the ball out quickly, sidearming it out in camp when necessary. Rodgers has been doing that for a couple of decades.

"I do think there are similarities," Panthers head coach Frank Reich said. "You don't like to compare in this business, and obviously, Aaron Rodgers is in a league of his own. I mean, Bryce isn't ready to be mentioned in the same sentence as Aaron Rodgers.

"But the reality is, he can do exactly what you said, like the throw that you're talking about (in practice Tuesday), that's an elite throw, and how quick it gets out. That's the thing with Aaron. He, he not only can throw it all those arm angles but the speed at which the ball gets out. There's a special skill set for that. And we believe Bryce has that same skill set."

Bryce Young

Young acknowledged that similarity, saying Rodgers "opened the window" for some of those mechanics that are outside the conventional coaching points.

"He just freestyles, but to have the footwork that he does," Young said. "He was really one of those main guys that was able to perform consistently and stuck to that and made that a part of who he was. And I think not just myself, but a lot of people have attributed (that to him). Before, there was a negative stigma, you have to do this, and you have to throw the same way every time. And he was kind of the guy that opened the door that not only can I just make it, but I can be consistent and elite, and have this as not just something every once in a blue moon, but a part of my game.

"And because of that, I think that that was huge for me, created a lot of opportunity for myself, and a lot of guys of my generation, and a lot of guys that are in the league now. And he's been doing that for a lot longer than it's kind of been talked about and celebrated and been popular. So I think him just being a pioneer and paving the way for things like that is one of the many reasons why I have a lot of respect for him."

It appears these two have a lot of respect for each other.

Check out scenes from the Panthers' first joint practice against the New York Jets on Wednesday.

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