For Jets rookie guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, his shoulder injury is "in the past now" and he's preparing for full speed ahead into his first NFL regular season.
"I feel real excited," Vera-Tucker said this week about opening day a week and a half away on Sept. 12 at the Panthers. "I'm just ready to go out there to Carolina, go up against those guys. I know a couple of them.
"I feel ready to go, regardless. First game coming up, so like I said, I'm excited."
Excitement can overcome a lot, but can it make up for no snaps in preseason games? AVT injured his pectoral muscle back in the first week of August and returned to individual drills two weeks ago and to a full plate last week, yet sat out all three games. But he says he stayed sharp physically and mentally on the sideline to be ready for his return to action.
"Definitely lots and lots of rehab, a whole lot of treatment to make sure this doesn't happen again, beginning or midseason," he said. "Also, on top of that, just doing a whole lot of conditioning, like 30, 40 plays each day, similar to what they're doing out there on the practice field. Really just conditioning and keeping my mind right and the film and stuff like that."
In this new era of the NFL, still very mindful of COVID and now into the 17-game regular-season schedule, offensive linemen no longer get five years or two years or even one season to get synched up with their linemates. However, center Connor McGovern said the refurbished Jets offense will quickly and efficiently be getting on the same page all this week and next before heading south.
"We've been managing well," McGovern said of the injuries to Vera-Tucker injury and more recently to LT Mekhi Becton. "Both those guys are on the mend, should be here back to full strength pretty quick. ... It's camp. I think I alluded to it that it's going to happen, can't use it as an excuse. So we've been battling and doing the best we can, and I think we've been doing well."
Vera-Tucker said "mentally I was always dialed in" while in the classroom with McGovern and guards Greg Van Roten and Dan Feeney — who played LG while AVT was down — not to mention Morgan Moses and George Fant, doing battle for the RT job.
And he can't wait to apply his physicality to opposing D-lines for keeps through the Jets' wide zone blocking scheme.
"I like how it just spreads out the defense, how it gets the defensive line tired," he said. "Outside zone, they don't like running at all, side-to-side. There's a whole lot of running they have to do. So definitely it opens up holes for the running backs and also forces the linebackers to come up and fill those holes, so Zach [Wilson] can just start dicing up the secondaries."
But might he be a little anxious, as the 14th overall pick out of Southern Cal, to perform right away? Vera-Tucker looks at Wilson taken ahead of him in Round 1, then to his left at Becton and his right at McGovern, and says, in effect, what anxiety?
"I wouldn't say I feel the pressure, but my mindset, that's just how I am," he said. "They picked me for a reason, to come in, start and dominate. That's all I can pretty much do is come in and work, like I do every day. It's not a whole lot of pressure.
"If anything, I kind of like it. I'm kind of like a low-key dude, I don't like being in the spotlight all the time. Like I said, I just come in and do my thing."