Hank Poteat distracts Eagles WR Hank Baskett.
A reporter asked Hank Poteat in the Jets locker room late this morning if he feels as if he's a kind of "hired gun." Poteat said he didn't see it that way.
Another possible description would be journeyman. But perhaps the best way to capture the veteran defensive back is that he's a survivor and sometimes a thriver.
Poteat is back for his third tour of duty (or is it his fourth?) with the Jets as of today. Asked if his role will be changing much from what he was doing at training camp before he became a final cut, he chuckled.
"I don't know. We'll see when I go out there and practice," he said. "I'm not exactly sure."
This summer Poteat was working with the Jets corners as usual, even seeing action at safety along with David Barrett as head coach Eric Mangini, coordinator Bob Sutton and secondary coach Jerome Henderson continued to seek position flexibility. After posting the first two interceptions of his career last season, he came up with another in the preseason opener at Cleveland.
Then on Aug. 30 came his latest release. Since then he's been splitting time among being a proper papa down in his Delaware home, working out, and visiting NFL teams. He had visited with St. Louis and Denver, and as recently as Wednesday, he said, he was working out with the Cincinnati Bengals.
"My agent called me," Poteat said, "and told me when I leave there to come here. Everything happened so fast."
Talk about your change candidate. He'd been gone less than a month and already his jersey No. 31 — the number he wore in Little League and college (but not high school), for the Super Bowl XXXIX-winning Patriots and the Jets — had been acquired by Ahmad Carroll.
"It was crazy. I was in the special teams meeting today and Coach Westhoff puts up on the board 31 and 36. The whole time I thought he was talking about me," said Poteat, now wearing No. 23. "Then he started mentioning names and I said, Oh, yeah, that's not me now.' "
And the former Philadelphian had never made it to the Jets' new Atlantic Health Training Center, except to tour the unfinished complex in the off-season. He looked around the huge locker room with his understated smile.
"This is great," he said of the building. "All the places I've been, all the teams I've played for, this tops all of them. It's great, it's awesome. I got lost a couple of times going from one place to another."
Poteat was asked if he knew the actual number of transactions he's been involved in during his career.
"I know it's a lot," he said. "I don't know exactly how many."
Here is the list again, in case you forgot all the stops he's made along the way:
* Selected by PIT in third round (77th overall) of 2000 NFL Draft.
* Waived by PIT 8/31/03.
* Signed by TB as FA 10/21/03.
* Waived by TB 11/12/03.
* Signed by CAR as UFA 12/30/03.
* Released by CAR 9/5/04.
* Signed by NE as FA 1/11/05.
* Released by NE 8/30/05.
* Signed by NE as FA 10/19/05.
* Released by NE 8/29/06.
* Signed by Jets as FA 9/1/06.
* Released by Jets 9/2/06.
* Signed by NE as FA 9/27/06.
* Released by NE 10/10/06.
* Signed by Jets as FA 10/11/06.
* Declared UFA 2/29/08.
* Re-signed by Jets as UFA 5/06/08.
* Released by Jets 8/31/08.
* Re-signed by Jets as FA 9/24/08.
For those scoring at home, that's nine or 10 stops (depending on if you count his becoming an unrestricted free agent in March before returning to the Jets in May as a release and re-signing) with five teams.
How does this sit with Poteat? Well, he mentioned that it was a little tough on squaring away his daughter's school situation. She was enrolled in a New Jersey school until he was released Aug. 31, then he re-registered her in a Delaware schools, even though Delaware's school year starts two weeks earlier than New Jersey's. He's not going to switch her school again. At least he could be farther away than the trip down the Turnpike and over the Commodore Barry Bridge.
But as for his career, he smiles, rolls with the punches and keeps riding the wave wherever it takes him.
"I just appreciate the opportunity every time I come back and I'm able to continue to provide for my family," he said. "Not many guys can say they had the opportunity to play in the NFL for nine years."
We don't know how long you're here for this time, Hank, but welcome back.