When Jeremy Kerley signed a contract extension with the Jets midway through the 2014 season, he expressed emotions about the Green & White that some fans probably didn't know he had.
"Being a Jet is something I'm truly proud of," the softspoken wide receiver/punt returner said at that time. "I just feel like it was pretty much love at first sight."
A lot transpired from then to this afternoon, when he was again standing in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room after a practice. He was released by the Jets after the 2016 season, signed with the Lions, was traded to the 49ers, was re-signed by the Niners to an extension this March, then cut this past Sunday.
"I don't get surprised by that. It's the league. Anything can happen," Kerley said today. "I was just glad I got a good opportunity. ... As soon as it happened in earnest, I went to my phone and looked up every Jets contact I had.
"I was ready to phone them myself."
Jets Practice Indoors Leading Up to Week 1 at Buffalo
He didn't have to. The Jets, in need of depth and experience at wideout, called Kerley's representation and reached a deal to bring J.K., their fifth-round pick in 2011, back into the fold.
"I still like him. I always liked him," head coach Todd Bowles said. However, he explained that former offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system was designed to get the ball to Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall on the outside and featured larger WRs. As a result, the 5'9" Kerley's receiving totals, despite his quickness and proven chain-moving skills, fell to career lows of 16 receptions and 152 yards.
"Now that we're bringing him back in the scheme we're running, we have a little different game plan on how we want to use the slot receiver," the coach said, "and he fits that role."
Bowles said Kerley wouldn't return punts in Sunday's season opener at Buffalo but could down the road. Kerley said he doesn't know for sure if he'll even be active for the Bills. But he's putting in extra hours to learn new OC John Morton's system and is "eager to get started and do what I do."
He's also happy to be back with the Jets in their current situation, hearing from many quarters about how they're going to struggle this season. Really.
"I know this team wants to win. I know they want to prove a lot of people wrong right now. And that's something I want to be a part of," he said.
"They have good team speed at a lot of positions. And I think there's a lot of young guys going in the right direction. That's good for a franchise and a team. And if you get a bunch of young guys to buy into something, you'll have a good team. That's what I noticed coming back, and it's something I'll be looking forward to being a part of and hoping we can get that going."