Joe McKnight has traveled some rough summer road, but today may have been the U-turn on the highway back to Wellville.
"I feel good, man, I feel good," McKnight said after practicing full with the Jets without wearing a red "hands-off" jersey for the first time since Aug. 13, when he aggravated his head injury up at SUNY Cortland. "It just feels good to be back out with the team."
"We'll see how Joe progresses," said head coach Rex Ryan at his Atlantic Health Jets Training Center news conference, "but it's good to see Joe in other than a red jersey. I tell you what, I get where he's coming from. He wants to play, I don't doubt that. But I think I'm going to lean on our trainers and doctors before making that call."
McKnight didn't disagree with that caution about returning him to the lineup but it's still been a trying time for No. 25
"Yeah, it's frustrating, but if it's a head injury, you can't do anything else but try to fight through it and get back out there," he told me at his locker. "Plus I deal with a lot of migraines so I've got to be real cautious about this type of stuff. And I have a child, so I have to look at that, too."
There's a lot on Joe McKnight's mind, but a lot will be lifted off his shoulders if he can springboard from this week's practices through the Giants game and toward the regular season.
"I've been out with an injury so I have to work my way back into things," he said. "This week is going to be a real big week for me to get plays and try to show Coach I'm ready."
McKnight got some offensive work today, and he still packs the NFL's top kickoff-return average over the past two seasons combined. As always for players with preseason injuries in this new millennium, there is a constant tension between coming back too soon and not getting back in time to help the team.
At the moment, he's still being monitored but he's on the path back to full-go status.
"I feel comfortable," he said. "I feel I'm back to myself."
Twenty-two Jets alumni were on hand for today's practice. Ryan and GM John Idzik both have strong ties to our past and appreciation for our alums, as Rex underscored during his news conference.
"We had former Jets players and even a couple of former Titans players out there today," Ryan said. "It's always great to see them. I invited a lot of them to go out to their individual groups. That was kind of neat to see all those guys come back. I think we could use a couple of them. [Joe] Klecko still looks like he could play, and Marty Lyons. l think our guys were energized by it as well. We have a saying, 'Once a Jet, always a Jet.' I said, 'Ten, 15 years from now, maybe you'll be coming to a practice similar to this.' "
Lyons was making perhaps his first appearance since he learned Saturday night he will be the 13th member inducted into our Ring of Honor in October. He was joined by Klecko and fellow ROH member RB Freeman McNeil plus several Super Bowl III participants. The 22 alumni in attendance, in order of their first seasons with the Titans/Jets:
1960 — QB Bob Scrabis
1962 — DE Karl Kaimer
1963 — TE Jim McKinstry
1964 — C John Schmitt
1966 —RB Emerson Boozer
1967 — CB Randy Beverly, OL Jeff Richardson
1970 — TE-WR Rich Caster
1976 — LB Greg Buttle
1977 — DL Joe Klecko, S Ken Schroy, RB-KR Bruce Harper
1978 — CB Bobby Jackson, OL Stan Waldemore
1979 — DT Marty Lyons
1981 — RB Freeman McNeil, RB John Nitti
1983 — TE Rocky Klever
1984 — OL Ted Banker
1994 — DT Lou Benfatti
1995 — LB Chad Cascadden
2002 — G Dave Szott
Ryan wasn't ready to say rookie QB Geno Smith would or would not get the start vs. the Giants, but he said of Smith and his sore ankle: "I still don't think he's 100 percent, but I certainly think he's getting closer to that. I thought he had his moments where he really threw the ball well."
Ryan had praise for S Antonio Allen, who came up with three interceptions in practice. Ryan said the safety competition will continue with Allen starting alongside Dawan Landry at the Giants on Saturday night, then Jaiquawn Jarrett getting the start on Thursday night, Aug. 29, vs. Philadelphia — "and not because the Eagles cut him," Ryan said.
Rookie CB Dee Milliner was rested with a sore lower leg. ... No update on FB Lex Hilliard, who left practice with a serious-looking shoulder injury. ... Also no update on LB Quinton Coples, who was set to undergo a medical procedure for his ankle injury today. ... Today's practice, open to season ticket holders, was 1,081. Wednesday's practice, open to the public, is set to start at 11:15 a.m.
After two full weeks of the NFL preseason, Mark Sanchez is second among all QBs with 294 passing yards, trailing only the 311 of Miami's Matt Moore. ... Jeff Cumberland is one of only three tight ends with two touchdown passes so far. ... And Kahlil Bell is one of only four players with 2 rushing TDs.