Jets wide receiver Devin Smith knows he’d have to beat the clock and the odds in his rehab from a major knee injury to avoid PUP and be available for the start of the 2016 season.
So, Smith isn’t putting a date on anything but he is optimistic about his rehab and his chances of helping the Jets this season.
“I feel great with everything I’m doing,” Smith told PFT Friday, after his hometown youth football camp. “I’m starting to run a lot more, doing a lot more cutting and really trying to push. I have a much better idea of what I can do and can’t do right now with my running and my rehab, and that’s a good sign.”
A training camp injury cost Smith, a second-round pick in 2015, valuable time last summer, then he tore his ACL in December. He worked with trainers while his teammates were on the field through the spring, and Jets coach Todd Bowles has said he’s unsure when Smith will be back.
Smith’s answer? As soon as possible.
“Physically, I feel great,” he said. “My weight is up. I feel healthy. The trainers have pushed me in the right direction. The trainers at the Jets have been great. I feel totally comfortable that they’ll have me back when the right time comes. They watch me closely and we have great communication.
“It’s one day at a time. I really do feel better most days than I did the day before, the week before. They haven’t told me much about a timetable because the focus is just on me getting better. I know when camp starts, [how much time] we have, and I’m just glad I’m making the progress I’m making now. Hopefully we keep going in the right direction.”
Smith was college football’s best deep threat in 2014 — and for much of his four-year Ohio State career actually — but he struggled as a rookie with the Jets.
He ended up with nine catches and one touchdown in 10 games. Smith had his battles with drops and with catching on, and he never really seemed comfortable after suffering a punctured lung and broken ribs while making a catch in an early training camp practice last summer.
“Just a freak injury,” he said. “And it set me back from the mental side. I never missed a camp ever. I felt like I was doing great and then I missed a bunch of time. Not only was I in pain and in the hospital, I was just behind. It’s not making an excuse. I had a lot to catch up on, a lot to learn. So this year I’m taking care of the knee and I’m going to be much better knowing how to split my time with the playbook, with my rest, when to be in the trainer’s room and when to put in that extra time in the meeting room.
“For me, I knew I needed to bulk up, put some more mass on my body. And I just had to adjust to the pro game. It’s not just the playbook. One of the biggest things about going from the college game to the pros is taking care of your body. It’s knowing your body, putting the right things in your body, getting your rest but still staying in that playbook.
“It’s the NFL, man. Every year, every guy has a lot to prove. I have a lot to prove. I have to use all these experiences and end up being better.”
Smith will almost certainly begin training camp on PUP. If he starts the regular season on PUP, he’ll miss at least the first six games before he can be activated.