Avery Williamson is one of the most positive dudes to put on an NFL uniform these days. Asked what he thought about the Jets defense that has lost Jamal Adams to trade and C.J. Mosley to his COVID-19 opt-out decision in the past week, Williamson proceeded to make the proverbial turkey salad out of chicken plumage.
"I mean, it's just the next-man-up mentality," the veteran LB said on a Tuesday conference call with Jets reporters. "We've definitely got some good talent on the team. We've just got to pick up where we left off. Gregg Williams does a good job of piecing things together. Last year it was just a cluster of injuries, and somehow, someway they made it work.
"I definitely hated to see Jamal go and C.J. opt out, but at the end of the day, we've still got some talented guys that can play those positions as well. I feel like Gregg's going to put guys in good positions and he's just going to coach the hell out of 'em."
As luck would have it, the ever optimistic Avery is one of those talented players. Mosley was limited to two games due to his groin injury suffered on opening day against Buffalo, but Williamson saw even less action — in the second quarter of the second preseason game at Atlanta, he was the only Jets starter on the field at that time and suffered a clean tear of his ACL in an end zone pass coverage collision with teammate CB Tevaughn Campbell.
Williamson, asked about head coach Adam Gase's decision to leave him on the field with the Jets' second D for that series, gave an honest answer about his emotions. But his voice didn't betray any bitterness, only a deep reservoir of resolve to remain upbeat and get the injury past him.
"At the end of the day, if you hold onto stuff like that, it's just going to eat away at you," he said. "I had my moments where I was in some dark places, I didn't want to talk to anybody. But I feel I moved past it, and just the fact that I'm running, able to move, closer to being on the field, that's the happiness I want to have. It makes me feel good.
"Coach Gase has told me many times he hated that it happened, and shoot, I'm over it now. At this point, I'm just ready to work, go out there and show that I'm back where I was last year and ready to take the next step to be better than last year."
Gase is happy and relieved to have Williamson close to making his return as well.
"I was just kind of kicking myself, thinking he should have never been on the field, this should have never happened, we should have had him for the season," Gase said. "He was great about it, he knew how I felt about it. He focused on getting better. I know he's excited to get out there. I'm going to be extremely excited to see him going again and seeing where he's at. I just want to see him get in pads, be able to just start playing football again. That's going to be a good day for me personally.:
Williamson has begun this totally different kind of training camp, with all its COVID-19 precautions, on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list. Gase said he "still has to check some boxes with when we actually do get on the field that he has to do with our training staff."
But Williamson, the eternal padded optimist, said whether he'll be lining up at Mike linebacker, replacing Mosley, or at Will, where he was setting up to play last year alongside Mosley when he got hurt, he's ready to rock and roll again.
"I'm feeling good. I've been feeling really good since about, I'd say, May or June, just really started to turn the corner," he said. "I feel like I'm doing a good job of competing out there, and just listening to the trainers right now. They want me to take it slow and I'm agreeing with them. As long as I'm ready for the season — which I know I'll be — that's all that matters."