"It's been a grind," the Zenith ambassador told PEOPLE of the mental and physical struggle since his potentially season-ending injury
Aaron Rodgers is grateful for the support he's received from friends and fans since his injury.
On Monday, the New York Jets quarterback, 39, spoke exclusively with PEOPLE about his healing journey after tearing his Achilles last month, which may have put him out for the 2023 football season.
"It's been a grind. Frustration, sadness — a lot of sadness," the Zenith ambassador tells PEOPLE, noting how appreciative he is of all the people who have "showed up" for him, especially after his surgery.
"[They] brought me food, took care of me, checked on me, FaceTimed me, called me. So I'm really thankful for everybody who reached out," Rodgers says. "It was a tough time and I was in a rough place."
Rodgers also expressed how much the support has meant to him from fans who have suffered the same injury.
"I've heard from people all over the country, all over the world, who tore their Achilles, sending support because I think we're like a tight-knit family,"
The former Green Bay Packer says he still can't run or move very well, but getting out and throwing the ball at the Jets game on Sunday "just to feel a little bit more normal" did a lot for his mental state.
"I felt like I was part of the team," he shares. "And when you're away from it and you're injured most days you don't feel that."
While hyper-focused on getting back out on the field, Rodgers has also been "enjoying" his ambassador role with the luxury watch brand Zenith. He was in good spirits on Monday night while unveiling his new signature timepiece, taking the time to talk and joke and take pictures with each and every guest at the party.
Zenith, along with its CEO Julien Tornare, hosted the N.Y.C. event to highlight its partnership with the four-time MVP, who has served as a brand ambassador for the LVMH-owned Swiss watch manufacturer since 2021.
"He's a great guy," Rodgers says of Tornare, who gave the star athlete a lively introduction along with a champagne toast for the guests at the LVMH tower's Magic Room.
"The partnership has come along really naturally. I think he was kind of feeling me out in the beginning and it got solidified when I went back to Switzerland and got to spend time with him."
Though he's the face of a luxury brand, Rodgers, in his shiny blue suit, notes that he's normally "a tee shirt and jeans type of guy."
"I'm a little overdressed here," he laughs, though he says he appreciates being able to wear more of his stylish clothing while out in New York City versus Green Bay.
"I look at my time at Green Bay, there's a lot of gratitude, a lot of love for those people," he says warmly. "They're great people. I had a great time there. And the New York fans were really welcoming when I got here. Obviously I can't be out there playing for them right now, but I plan on getting back at some point."
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No matter what he's going through, Rodgers shares that he takes his role model status seriously, "feeling a responsibility to the kids that look up to me." When he sees them "at a game or on the street or whatever it might be," he "takes the time."
"Because I was that kid growing up looking at my favorite players and dreaming about being in the NFL."
Zenith's CHRONOMASTER Sport Aaron Rodgers limited-edition watch is now available for purchase.
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Read the original article on People.