Fans returning to One Jets Drive for the Jets' fourth practice of training camp Saturday was big, not just for the fans and for the organization, but for one Jets vet in particular.
This was the first time C.J. Mosley would be performing in front of spectators since late October 2019.
"I'm excited for everyone to be here," Mosley told Eric Allen after a recent practice on a 2-Minute Drill episode. "I'm excited for the loyal fans, the season ticket holders to get a glimpse of what we're going to bring to the table this year."
Mosley was talking about his defense and his team. He didn't have to talk up himself but he's plenty upbeat about his personal journey, too. It's old news now, but the fans in attendance over the weekend knew all about his long, winding road: from five seasons with Baltimore, four of them as a Pro Bowl inside 'backer, to an unrestricted free agency signing with the Jets, to a '19 season cut down to parts of two games due to his groin injury, to a '20 season lost to a COVID-19 opt-out.
But Mosley on several occasions this year has said he's ready to pick up where he left off back in '18 with the Ravens. One reason for such optimism is his weight. He'd always checked in at 6-2 and 250 pounds as a pro, but now he's down to a svelte 231.
"Eating better, obviously," he told Allen about his dieting secrets. "Not being out as much, kind of lying low on that part, just focusing more on myself mentally and physically. I know what it takes to get back to a premier level ... and I just wanted to make sure I had no excuses coming into this season. I wanted to be 100 percent, be as fast as possible, and be one of the leaders on this team."
The leadership has been noticed by someone who lines up in front of him on many downs, Carl Lawson. The former Cincinnati edge rusher knew a little about Mosley in the past when the Bengals were on offense, the Ravens were on D, and he could catch a sideline glimpse of Mosley doing his thing on the field.
"My impression of C.J. is that he's been a great player," Lawson said. "I haven't really talked to him that much, I've just been listening to his calls in the huddle. But he seems like a great leader and a great guy."
Head coach Robert Saleh concurred with that scouting report.
"Just like Carl, you can never have too many good players and C.J.'s one of those guys who's played at a high level for a very long time," Saleh said. "He commands respect, he has a tremendous amount of respect in the building — when he speaks, everyone listens. And on top of it, he has unbelievable character. To have him in the building and to pair him up with Jarrad Davis and then all those rookies and Blake Cashman and all the guys who have been here before; I'm really excited about that linebacker group and to see where it goes."
That's really where it's at for Mosley, too. You can tell he's feeling faster afoot and more comfortable with his situation than he's been in a while. But he knows he can't do it alone.
"This camp, there hasn't been a lot of repeats, there hasn't been a lot of penalties, there hasn't been a lot of people on the ground," he said. "Guys came to camp in shape, guys came to camp ready to get better. And the foundation we started in the spring, we're starting to stack our bricks going into these training camp days."
And that's why this summer is important to No. 57. Mosley is back in the flow of things, and the people he cares about are not only the ones around him on the field making plays alongside him but the ones who'll be returning to the bleachers for practices at the Atlantic Health Training Center and then to the MetLife Stadium stands for home games after a year away.
"People, for the first time, really, can see in person what we're trying to build here," Mosley said, with a smile that came roaring back from almost two years ago. "We're trying to build something special."
See the Best Images from Saturday's Practice at Jets Training Camp with Fans