After suffering a torn ACL in his right knee last December, Jets WR Devin Smith's sophomore campaign has been a test of patience.
"It's been real tough," Smith told Eric Allen and Larry Hardesty on Inside the Jets. "The six weeks that I was out on the PUP list watching our team take the losses, I was real hard on myself. I felt like I could've been out there helping on offense and special teams. When I did get a chance to play, I felt like it was too late and the season was almost over with. I was kind of bummed out not having a chance to get back on the field when I was practicing very well. I just took it in stride, telling myself to keep going and working hard. When I get my chance, just go out there and have fun with it."
Smith battled injuries his entire rookie season. After the Ohio State product went down with broken ribs and a partially punctured lung in his first training camp, he ended up playing 10 games in 2015. He had nine receptions for 115 yards and 1 TD before his year ended against the Titans and he was subsequently placed on injured reserve on Dec. 18, 2015.
After starting this past training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform/Active list to start training camp, Smith was placed on the PUP list and was excluded from practicing or playing with the Jets for the first six weeks of the season. He was activated on Nov. 9, but didn't make his season debut until Dec. 11 in San Francisco.
Primarily used on special teams since being activated, Smith has embraced the role after being one of the nation's top gunners in college. The former Buckeye takes pride in tackling, a trait he developed in high school while playing cornerback and safety. Smith registered his second special teams tackle of the season against New England, holding PR Julian Edelman to a four-yard punt return.
"You have to be physical out there on special teams," Smith said. "A lot of guys out there are physical, so you have to bring your A game every week. Coach [Urban] Meyer put a big emphasis on it and I took it in stride and kept going."
Against the Patriots, Smith saw his most offensive work of his season. The former second-round pick beat CB Eric Rowe to the back corner of the end zone in the fourth quarter where Ryan Fitzpatrick zipped a pass that grazed off Smith's fingertips as he was falling.
"I couldn't get a good grip on it," said Smith, who also registered his first catch of the season earlier in the game.
While Sunday's matchup against the Bills may not have any playoff repercussions, the Akron, OH, product is still eager to play because of his small sample size of game time action.
"It would be great, man," Smith said. "Not playing for so long and just not being able to be on the practice field with the guys, that's something that I missed. I was watching everything from afar. It felt like I was disconnected a little bit because they were practicing while I was working out. Just being back out there, it means everything. It's things like that you can't take for granted so I just go out there and make sure I'm working harder than ever have."