Kenrick Ellis wasn’t thinking about football this summer. He was thinking about getting through the day in front of him.
But the time the Jets defensive tackle spent in a Virginia jail cell this summer (with more on the way this spring), did focus him on the coming season.
“My mindset was to make it through the situation I was in,” Ellis said, via Brian Costello of the New York Post. “Football wasn’t on my mind. I was just trying to make sure I could get up the next morning and go do the things that you had to do in there just to get into a routine.
“If you think about the stuff that you lost and don’t have you’re just going to make it a lot worse. You have to check your environment and just realize your reality at that moment.”
Ellis had to serve time after entering an Alford plea from a felony assault and battery case from his college days. It wasn’t an admission of guilt, but was deemed the most expedient way to close the case. He did 23 days in June and early July, and will finish the last 22 days of his sentence in March.
And for a guy who was away, he came out of the process more focused on football, according to his coaches.
“If you poll anybody who is the most improved player on defense, it’s not even close,” Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said of Ellis.
That came from maturity as well as his training with linebacker Bart Scott, who said he saw “humility” in the young player and a new dedication.
“He’s a great kid,” Scott said. “He’s respectful. He’s humble. He’s a big teddy bear. That one incident, which I have my own opinion about, is not indicative of who he is. If that’s all people read or know about him, that’s not who he is.”
He’ll get a chance to show that soon.