Blessuan Austin smiled as he imagined Sunday afternoon. Running through the tunnel, taking the field, looking up into the MetLife Stadium stands for family and friends.
After 14 months of rehab, after a life spent dreaming of a day like this, the Jets’ 23-year-old cornerback from Queens and Campus Magnet High School will play in an NFL game.
“It’s definitely going to be a wonderful feeling, without a doubt,” he said on Friday. “As soon as I got hurt, I was thinking about getting on the field.” That’s what got me here now, that’s what was driving me. I always bounce back.”
On Sept. 1, 2018, while a junior at Rutgers, Austin tore his left ACL for the second time in as many years. His football future was in doubt, a future that seemed so promising after he had 14 pass breakups as a sophomore and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection. He attacked his comeback like he was preparing to hit a wide receiver, envisioning a time he could return to the field.
The Jets drafted him in the sixth round, knowing this year might be a “redshirt year” due to the injury. But the 6-foot-1, 198-pound Austin didn’t think like that. He was at their practice facility every day this summer rehabbing. He took one day off — the day before training camp.
“It was a challenge, but nothing I wasn’t up for,” Austin said. “It’s just adversity — that’s all it was I had to overcome. … Just being patient, that was the toughest part.”
Austin started practicing three weeks ago and taking part in team drills last week. On Thursday, the day after starting cornerback Darryl Roberts suffered a non-contact calf injury, the Jets moved Austin to the active roster from their non-football injury list as their fifth cornerback.
“The good thing is he’s been practicing very well. All his movement skills, he looks really good doing all of that stuff,” coach Adam Gase said. “The contact stuff is really — when we’ve gone full pads, he’s thudded guys up. But he hasn’t really had to tackle anybody to the ground and really mix it up that way. That’s really going to be a big test for him.”
Austin isn’t sure how exactly he will be used. It doesn’t matter.
“Without a doubt, I feel like I’m ready,” Austin said. “I have a lot of built up aggression from certain things that happened, people doubting me, thinking I’m not going to bounce back from what I went through,” he said. “I can’t wait to unleash that.”
The Jets offense expects to get a few key players back against the Giants. LT Kelvin Beachum (ankle) and TED Chris Herndon (hamstring) appear ready to return. For Herndon, it would be his first game of the season after serving a four-game suspension to open the year for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse. Beachum has missed the past three games. Le’Veon Bell (knee), whose status was up in the air earlier in the week, practiced on Friday and should be active as well, according to coach Adam Gase.
LB C.J. Mosley (groin) is out and CB Darryl Roberts (calf), C Ryan Kalil (knee) and LB Neville Hewitt (stinger) are doubtful.
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