It was a simple choice for safety Lamarcus Joyner: Re-sign with the Jets or retire.
"There was a lot of personal stuff, but the Jets were supportive, my wife was supportive, and my family was supportive," Joyner told reporters on Friday after the Jets completed preparations for Sunday's preseason finale, against the Giants at MetLife Stadium. "That gave me an extra push.
"It was the Jets or nothing."
After two seasons with the Raiders, Joyner signed a one-year deal with the Jets in March 2021 with the expectation he would form a potent tandem at safety with Marcus Maye. But those hopes and plans came crashing down when Joyner sustained a torn triceps muscle in the Jets' Week 1 game at Carolina. He missed the rest of the season but opted to re-sign with the Green & White.
"I love this organization that much," he said. "Last year I was pleased to be with Coach [Robert] Saleh. I love his mentality; I love his standard and I love the defensive scheme."
"I went through a lot the past two seasons before signing with the Jets," he said, referring to a move from safety to nickel cornerback with Oakland/Las Vegas, starting in only 16 games over two seasons. "I look forward to being rejuvenated. I was able to step away from the game and get back right with myself and my faith. I've done all I could to come back in tip-top form. Once I made the decision to come back it was with both feet in, not one foot in, one out. I'm all in until I make the decision to walk away. And I don't see it ending any time soon."
Though he missed some training camp time because of an illness, Joyner said that he's ready to face the Giants on Sunday, most likely teamed with another acquisition in free agency in Jordan Whitehead.
"The partnership is going to be great," Joyner, 31, said. "We have a bunch of other young safeties and, as a unit, we'll do well this year."
See the Green & White on the field for the final time before the Jets-Giants preseason game.
The St. Louis Rams made Joyner a second-round pick (out of Florida State) in the 2014 NFL Draft, and he spent the first five years of his NFL career with the Rams, moving to the West Coast with the team. He had his best season in 2017 when he made 3 interceptions (for 104 yards and 1 TD) and made 39 solo tackles. Pro Football Focus named him its No. 2 safety that season. After the Rams' loss to New England in the Super Bowl the next season, Joyner signed with the Raiders in free agency.
On Friday, Joyner said he is excited to be part of a Jets team that has added players on offense and defense and would not have returned if he didn't. Whitehead will provide a strong running mate at safety, but Joyner also complimented second-year man Jason Pinnock, who has been making the transition from cornerback to safety.
"You need some balance and stability [veterans and young players] in your locker room," he said. "A core and a bunch of young, determined guys and veterans to play and lead those guys and show them the way. He [Pinnock] is doing well and making strides. He's going to be a future piece in the organization and I'm going to give him all I can to see that through."
Asked about any potential pitfalls facing Pinnock as he shifts full-time to playing safety, Joyner said: "I can't speak for him, it's different for each player, we respond differently to change. Take the coaching, he has the ability, but he has to take the coaching."
Speaking of youth, the veteran safety said that the team's top draft pick, cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, has been impressive in training camp, but the real test will come when the regular season starts with the Week 1 game against visiting Baltimore on Sept. 11.
"First and foremost, he's very confident, and his confidence stands out and he backs it up," Joyner said. "He's had a tremendous camp. Everyone in the building is looking forward to seeing him play. I love it because there's a difference between being arrogant, cocky and confident. Confidence is coming to work every day and believing in yourself. He's not with extra stuff, he just believes he can play, and he belongs and is ready to prove it and comes to work like that every day."
With an influx of talent on the defensive line, at linebacker and in the defensive backfield, Joyner is convinced that the 2022 edition of the Jets D is set to attack, with speed and violence.
"If you look at every great defense in the league, they're not complex, we're going to line up and pretty much be on offense," he said. "Great defenses attack offenses. I mean, they don't sit back and wait. And I think that Coach Saleh believes that we got the locker room built to be that way, to be an offensive defense. So the only way you can do that is to be simple, but complex at times and still have rules so you can understand that you can be attacked in many ways, but go out there and give your guys a chance to play fast. And that's all you can ask for a defender."