On Oct. 21, 2018, running back Bilal Powell suffered a neck injury against the Minnesota Vikings that cut his season short and, at the time, potentially his career.
After a long offseason filled with patience, doctors recently cleared Powell and the Jets worked him out last Friday before they officially signed him Monday morning.
“I was just blessed to have an opportunity to be back,” the ninth-year veteran said. “To be here as long as I’ve been, it’s beating the odds. I was just excited to be back.”
Despite being the longest-tenured Jet, Powell is walking into a building with unfamiliar faces. The last time the 5’10”, 204-pounder suited up, the Green & White had a different head coach and general manager, and 17 players on the 53-man roster at the time are no longer with the team.
Among the influx of new players on the current roster are a pair of running backs — Le’Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery. As newyorkjets.com’s Randy Lange pointed out, the Jets now have three of the 40 NFL players with at least 100 rushes and 100 catches since 2014.
“It adds competition,” Powell said of the running back stable. “You want a room that’s going to compete and when you have that type of talent, injuries happen in this league, but you have to have enough talent to where the next man can come in and do his job.”
Powell likes the passion his new coach, Adam Gase, brings to the team, and after two practices he's trying to envision his role in the new offense. But Gase shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot for Powell as he has experience working with an ageless workhorse. Last season, Frank Gore rushed for 722 yards on 156 attempts and an average of 4.6 yards/carry at age 35 for the Dolphins.
Despite digesting a new playbook, Powell said his mind is on training.
“That’s my No. 1 focus right now, getting myself into the best shape and putting myself into a situation to make the most of my opportunity,” he said.
Before landing on injured reserve in ‘18, Powell totaled 453 scrimmage yards on 91 touches (80 rush, 11 rec) and one touchdown in seven games. In eight seasons, the 2011 fourth-round pick has a career 5,013 scrimmage yards, the eighth most among running backs in franchise history.
“It definitely flew by pretty fast,” Powell said of his time in green and white. “I just remember the veterans saying don’t take it for granted because when you look back, it’ll be gone. Entering Year 9, looking at some of the young guys running around, it’s like, ‘Wow. It does fly.’ ”