Football is about points and yards, runs and passes, X’s and O’s. But behind those important parts of the game is the human side, such as when a player has been away for a while before absorbing that first hit that snaps him back into reality and the resumption of his career.
Bryan Thomas and Jay Richardson remembered their first hits this summer, similar experiences although Thomas’ came almost a week after Richardson’s.
BT’s welcome-back popper came in the Cincinnati game on Friday night.
“When I was out there, don’t get me wrong, I was nervous, but I had the biggest smile on my face,” Thomas said. “Once I got that first little bang, all the nerves, the butterflies, the anxiety, they went away.
“I haven’t played since Baltimore last year,” he added about the Achilles tear he suffered in Game 4 that he relentlessly rehabbed to get back to this point. “Being out here, being able to bang with the guys, that’s different. When the lights turn and you make your first tackle that you didn’t have in almost a year … when I first went out there, I had to shake the butterflies loose.”
Thomas got the start at OLB vs. the Bengals, played the first quarter and didn’t rack up any numbers. But linebackers coach Bob Sutton said No. 58’s return to active duty has been impressive.
“BT had a great offseason worked hard to rehab from both Achilles and shoulder surgery. He’s come back very well and put in an unbelievable amount of time and effort in,” Sutton said. “I think physically he’s back to maybe even better than he was when he was injured. That’s how hard this guy has worked. And he’s come out here in practice and has performed very well, getting back his routine and his reaction time.”
Richardson: “Oh, Boy, Here We Go”
Thomas is the longest-tenured Jet, beginning his 11th season. Richardson, on the other hand, is tied for being the shortest-tenured Jet with no in-season games in green and white under his belt, just Friday’s “doesn’t-count” game. But JR’s thoughts went back to his first Sunday at SUNY Cortland training camp.
“Honestly, there were more butterflies and nerves for my first full-pads practice after being out for a year and a half,” said the DE, who missed the first half of 2010 due to a knee injury that closed the Raiders portion of his career, then sat out 2011 after the Seahawks released him. “That first time back on the field with pads on, suddenly I was like, ‘Oh, boy, here we go. I haven’t hit anybody in a while.’ Just strapping it up, it was like ‘Wow!’ It’s been a while since I put this on.”
Thomas definitely is still on the radar. Richardson was flying under it this camp — until he entered the game late in the second quarter, put on a blind-side rush and separated Bengals backup Bruce Gradkowski from the ball.
“My first play out there, I get a sack and cause a fumble. I’ll take it. It’s a blessing,” he said. “But I felt good. I’m starting to get more comfortable in this defense, starting to find a role, find my niche here. I think I can bring some pass-rush ability to the table and just run around out there trying to make plays.”
The game can be too short for some of the men who play it. Perhaps for BT and JR, it will allow them to continue their careers and they’ll make some key contributions to the Jets’ defensive effort this season.
As the Cro Flies
Antonio Cromartie got work during position drills with the wideouts at this morning’s closed practice. It was a welcome development for the seventh-year corner, but not exactly a surprising one.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, to play both ways in the NFL,” Cro said with a smile after the session. “It’s an opportunity to get the ball in your hands, and another challenge. I’ve been asking for it since I was a rookie in San Diego.”
Not to mention his three seasons playing on the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine defense.
“I bug Rex all the time to put me in on on offense,” he said. “The begging has paid off. Rex is giving me an opportunity to go out there and do it.”
Ryan cautioned Cromartie not to start planning for any 100-yard-game incentives.
“You’re not going to have him learn the entire offense, but maybe a handful of plays,” the coach said at today’s midday news conference. “There’s no reason he can’t do it and he could be a weapon. You see the size and speed he brings to the table. When he gets smacked by a safety, we’ll see if that changes anything.”
One who could be delivering the ball to Cromartie said he liked what he saw today.
“He looks good,” said Mark Sanchez. “DB, receiver, return game — he can do it all. He’s a special athlete.”
Ryan took a swipe at personnel people who targeted DE Quinton Coples as a “bust” when the Jets took him 16th in the April draft. “Again I’m sure he’s a bust of a pick. We’ll find out,” the coach said, adding, “The difference is the experts watched the tape. We knew what we were getting. I’m not saying every expert said he was a bust, but we looked 10 sacks the year before as an inside pass rusher — that’s hard to do against air. Obviously he has some traits to be successful.” He compared the measurables for Coples, coming his strong pro debut vs. the Bengals, to those for DE Jason Pierre-Paul, whom the Giants picked 15th in 2010 and who had a monster 16.5-sack season in ’11. “They’re two unusual talents,” Ryan said. “Hopefully Quinton can end up being the same kind of player Pierre-Paul’s been.”
Ryan said four injured key contributors — WRs Santonio Holmes (rib) and Jeremy Kerley (hamstring), NT Sione Po‘uha (back/forehead) and S Eric Smith (shoulder/knee) — will be “real questionable” for Saturday’s preseason home opener vs. the Giants. Kerley was fielding some punts during today’s teams period and could return to practice in a few days. Rex also said of the possibility that Holmes might miss the Sept. 9 opener vs. Buffalo, “I doesn’t see that at all. … He’s getting better. He’s getting treatment, the first guy in a lot of times, the last to leave. He’s trying to get back out there.”
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Bryan Thomas, Jay Richardson, Quinton Coples, SUNY Cortland, training camp
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