Marcus Maye will start against the Saints Saturday and he won’t have any limitations. The third-year safety, who started camp on the PUP list before returning to team drills Sunday night, was with the first-team defense throughout the week.
“Once that red jersey came off, we’re rolling because he’s in dynamic shape,” said head coach Adam Gase. “That’s all he’s been doing almost to the point where I think he was kind of tired of it. He’s in great shape. He plays a different position. It’s different with a lineman compared to a guy in the back end. His livelihood is running, so he’s ready to go. He’s one of those guys you don’t have to worry about fatiguing within a game.”
After being limited to just six games last season due to thumb and shoulder ailments, Maye’s training camp start was delayed due to nerve issues in his surgically-repaired shoulder. After watching the first two preseason contests, Maye is set to make his first game appearance since last November.
“Just being out there on the field is the first thing. That’s most important — staying healthy,” he told reporters. “Once I’m out there, I’m going to go out, fly around and make plays. Just being out there is the first step, just coming back from all the injuries. I’m excited just to be back out.”
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The 6’0”, 207-pound Maye, a second-round pick from Florida in 2017, appeared in 16 games his rookie season before his professional road met a detour.
“His injuries have not been things he could have prevented what’s happened to him,” Gase said. “It’s almost he had some back luck. He’s done everything he can to get back out on the field. I love how he pushed to practice this week, wanted to be available for the game. Everything looks like it’s a go.”
Maye kept his head up this summer and mentally stayed in the game. He remained focused on what he could control and knew the day would officially come when he returned to the field.
“You just have to know it’s part of the game. It’s a physical game that we play and obviously nobody’s playing out there to get injured,” he said. “I just try to do the best that I can to prevent those things, but if it happens, it happens. It’s part of the game. Dealing with that stuff, you just have to take it on with a full head of steam and you can’t really avoid it. You can’t get down on yourself because there is always a return point. None of the injuries last forever, so you just try to fight your way through.”
On Aug. 11th, Maye was activated from the PUP and practiced on a limited basis. After starting with light individual work and 7-on-7 drills, Maye moved to receiving a few team reps while donning a red pinnie. But by the team’s Green & White practice last weekend, he was full-go and he hopes to stay a fixture in the secondary throughout the 2019 campaign.
“I like to compete. I like to be out there on the field, running around with the guys,” Maye said. “So just to be on the sideline watching is probably the toughest thing because you want to be out here. It’s something that you love to do, so not being able to perform and be out there with the guys and running around is probably the toughest thing.”
The rejoining of Maye with star Jamal Adams could make things tough on opposition quarterbacks.
“I know majority of the time you see Marcus deep and Jamal down, but they’re really interchangeable,” Gase said. “They both can pressure, they’re good tacklers, Marcus has a very good knack for the ball. He finds ways to get his hands on the ball when he’s playing the post safety. I don’t think Jamal’s had as many opportunities because he’s been in the box so much is his career. Both those guys can cover guys 1-on-1. They just have the whole skills set you need as a safety.”
With some uncertainty at cornerback as the preseason winds down, the Jets could use a boost in the defensive backfield and Maye, a heady safety with range, should provide just that.
“Everything’s right on schedule. It was a long offseason and a lot of hard work to get to this point,” he said. “But just the fact that I’m here now and to look back at where I was over the offseason, it’s definitely exciting.”