Carl Lawson, in his short time being on the practice field but not the stadium turf as a Jet, has given the vibe of being a Terminator, if you will. He was having a great perpetual-motion, heavy-pass-rush kind of August last year before he tore his Achilles. Since then he's talked about how he would've played on the tear if the Jets' coaches and medical staff told him it was time to rehab. We don't think he would've done that, but that was his mindset.
Now Lawson, just a year later, seems to be coming to grips with things like his mentality and physicality and playing mortality. He hasn't backed off at all from his goals for himself and his still new team, but he spoke Wednesday with a little more understanding about where he's been on this NFL trip and where he's going.
"I'm getting more and more comfortable, but nowhere near where I want to be," Lawson told reporters after Wednesday's training camp practice, two days before the Jets' preseason opener at Philadelphia. "I had to take a few steps backward before I could go forward. I had to tell myself that's OK, that slowly but surely I'm getting there."
A few steps backward? Was Lawson referring to any setbacks in his rehab? Not exactly.
"Some times this offseason I couldn't train as hard as I wanted to. So maybe I had to take a day off and I didn't want to take a day off. But you've got to do what you've got to do to go forward," he explained. "You have to grow, you have to adapt in any field. If I'm going to get the most production out of having a rest day, as stubborn as I am, I've got to have a rest day. At certain times I've pushed myself and I might've overdone it just to figure something out. And that's not always the best course of action."
This pensiveness led Lawson to talk even viscerally about the injuries he's been through, a torn ACL with Cincinnati midway through 2018 before last summer's season-ender.
"It's not like it's a bad thing sometimes to back off certain things," he said. "It's a give-and-take, it's a sacrifice, how many times are you willing to go through something. My injuries in the past weren't anything to prevent me from messing up my longterm life. ACL, Achilles you can recover from. Now if I go out there and lose an eye, maybe a limb, maybe some devastating back thing, that will affect my quality of life later on. But these are things that are just temporary pain that I can work through to achieve my dreams."
There are some other mental adjustments Lawson still has to go through, being on the field and playing in a game for the first time since January 2021 (not counting his three plays in last year's Jets preseason opener vs. the Giants). He got some of that out of his system by lining up and putting pressure on the QBs at Saturday's Green & White Practice at MetLife Stadium.
"Even the other night was weird, being in the stadium. It's a lot different than practice," he said. "I got a little antsy. I wasn't too hesitant but maybe a little too amped, my first game, feeling the fans, the lights, being dark out. I think I got that part out of the way, maybe with having my jersey and pads on. I think I got that out at the Green & White scrimmage."
The hits will come faster and faster for No. 58. After the Eagles game there are two more preseason games, with the Falcons and Giants, with three joint practices combined against those opponents mixed in. Then comes Sept. 11 and opening day at home against the Ravens.
Lawson may be doing a lot of thinking these days, but nothing he said indicated that he wasn't ready to come blazing down the MetLife ramp and running between those towers of fire during pregame introductions. He still wants to be better than he was, which was among the very best edge-rushing NFL D-linemen.
"I'm not really far off," he said. "You never want to have a ceiling. You want to set expectations that can't humanly be reached. As far as I'm able to take it, that's how good I want to be. I don't see myself ever not trying to come in bigger, faster, stronger. I just want to be a better player and do whatever I can to get to that point."
See the Green & White on the practice field in full pads during week three at training camp.