Jets head coach Rex Ryan always says that there's a 100 percent injury rate in the game of football. It's an unforgiving truth about the game that some Jets have learned firsthand. Knee surgeries to quarterback Mark Sanchez and nose tackle Kris Jenkins have been well documented.
But wide receiver Aundrae Allison had to hit the road to recovery as well after his season was ended in the final preseason game of 2009.
"The first few days was the hardest," Allison said today after the Jets' Saturday morning training camp practice at SUNY Cortland. "After the first few days you kind of just keep going. I accepted it and I went with the challenge of coming back. That was the man thing. I didn't want to dwell on it because that's how you kind of get behind and down on yourself."
After a 70-yard touchdown reception in the preseason victory over the New York Giants last season, Allison looked ready to make an impact for the Jets. In the preseason finale against Philadelphia, however, the former All-Conference USA first-team selection tore his anterior cruciate ligament. It was a tough setback for the former Viking, but he's stayed positive throughout the process.
"I wanted to have an upbeat attitude about the whole thing and just accept the fact that I got injured," he said. "There are plenty of guys who came back from the injury and I want to put myself in that category of one of the guys who came back."
Allison is roommates with fellow wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who is a seventh-year veteran and one of the Jets' most important offensive weapons. Throughout last season and this offseason, Cotchery has been helping the 6'0", 200-pound Allison along his road to recovery by supporting the fourth-year man as he continues to build confidence in his knee.
"It's been fun to watch him gain his confidence back," Cotchery said. "Once he came here last year you could see the talent, you could see his route-running ability and playmaking ability overall. ... He's done a great job of getting back. He's healed very well and in the offseason he's just tried to get the confidence back in and I just tell him, 'Man just trust it.' "
Cotchery is one of the three Jets wideouts that opponents will have to worry about the most, along with Braylon Edwards and the newly acquired Santonio Holmes. Those three all have proven themselves as dangerous targets during their years in the NFL, and all have made an impression on Allison. The East Carolina product is thankful for the chance to be a colleague of those standouts.
"It's a great feeling," Allison said. "I love to watch those guys when they're out there playing because you can pick up so many things from them just to add to your game. It's more of a hands-on experience. I want to take something from them every day, whether it's how they prepare for practice or it can be something small, like lining up and how they read defenses."
A fifth-round pick in 2007, the Kannapolis, N.C., native has only 18 receptions for 231 yards during his career, but he went out to the "Jets West" camp last month when quarterback Mark Sanchez hosted all of his receivers in Southern California. There the teammates formed a rapport that should allow not only Allison but all of the receivers to be more effective this year.
"I feel like the receivers got a lot done out there," Allison said. "Mark looked really good, receivers looked really good, timing was good. It was beautiful weather out there. The whole experience was great."
One way that Allison can make an impact and find a role on the team is if he impresses the coaching staff on special teams. He might not be in the wide receiver rotation quite yet but he has a knack for being productive on kickoff returns. While in Minnesota he returned a kickoff for 104 yards and a touchdown as a rookie and has 26 career returns for a 25.9-yard average.
"I enjoy doing that," Allison said. "I'm comfortable with the scheme. Coach [Mike] Westhoff is like the Phil Jackson of special teams. … You can be confident in the return game and it's a good feeling to be able to be a part of that."
Last year Allison had success against the Giants, and with the teams meeting in their preseason opener at New Meadowlands Stadium on Monday night, he once again looks to make a splash against the Jets' rivals.