Wadsworth does a do-si-do vs. the Raiders
The ball was snapped and Andre Wadsworth dropped back into coverage. He sat in a zone and watched a receiver bobble a catch. Eyeing a potential gift, he deftly moved into position and secured the interception.
"Right place, right time," he said following the Jets' early workout Thursday.
The takeaway actually came in a daily post-practice session. Head coach Eric Mangini meets with the team at the official end of each workout, but then players who received light reps are required to stay for more work. Wadsworth, the third overall selection in the 1998 draft who is attempting to make a comeback after six seasons away from the game, hopes to defy the odds.
"I'm not digressing. I'm progressing," he said. "It's going all right. It's a lot slower than I thought it would be physically, but I know it's going to be a process. I have to have patience with myself and just go out and try to practice hard every day."
After a number of surgeries, the now 32-year-old Wadsworth is no longer the freakish athlete he was coming out of Florida State. Some talent evaluators actually thought the former Seminoles DE would have been the safest selection for the Indianapolis Colts, who ended up taking Tennessee QB Peyton Manning No. 1 overall.
"I am just getting back into the routine of things, the body motion," he said. "I have to be patient enough to know that I'm not the 4.5, 38-inch-vertical-leap guy anymore and look at myself and say, 'You have to work with the tools you know.' "
Listed as 6'4" and 272 pounds in the Jets' media guide, Wadsworth is playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 front. Upon signing with the Green & White, he went to work on a body transformation.
"We brought him down to more of the typical outside linebacker weight. That will help him with the transition to the new position," Mangini said. "But it is a completely new position for him as opposed to what he's been used to and he's coming back from the long layoff. This is multiple days now in pads, so we'll take it day by day and he'll take it day by day."
Wadsworth does see improvement in his play. He views himself as a work in progress and is being encouraged by his teammates. Bryan Thomas, who flourished after his position switch last year while racking up a career-high 8.5 sacks, can easily relate to Wadsworth's change of responsibilities.
"We have a great coach and a great segment. Eric Barton, [Jonathan] Vilma, Victor Hobson, BT, they all help me out and are making it easy for me," Wadsworth said. "Bryan Thomas knows how hard it is to change from defensive end to outside linebacker, so they've been very good."
With a smile on his face, he says there are two things you just cannot duplicate: the competition and the camaraderie.
"I love the guys, man. I'm all about camaraderie," he said. "Those guys are great. They're guys who love to play football and love to have fun. They aren't selfish. It's always a team. They involve the team and I like that idea."
Mangini is constantly stressing the importance of character to his club. He knows his young players can learn from Wadsworth's professionalism.
"He's a great person, a great person in the locker room, and his maturity and approach is really good not just for him but for a young guy as well," the coach said.
An upbeat Wadsworth will continue to operate on the outside, dropping into coverage and playing in space. He has set the humble goals of staying healthy and playing hard. So far he's achieved both.
"I feel pretty good. I'm shocked," he said. "This is the big test and I've been able to practice every day."