Santonio Holmes is close to playing again for the New York Jets.
After missing five games because of a hamstring injury, the wide receiver was limited in practice Wednesday but coach Rex Ryan was optimistic Holmes could be on the field Sunday at Buffalo.
”I think now he’s in a good spot and ready to return,” Ryan said. ”In my opinion, I think he’ll play. We’ll see as the week goes on, but I feel pretty good about him playing.”
Holmes went down in the Jets’ 38-13 loss at Tennessee on Oct. 3 and has been rehabilitating since. It appeared he might have a chance at playing in the Jets’ last game against New Orleans on Nov. 3, but was kept out and used the bye-week break to continue to heal.
”He had a major hamstring injury,” Ryan said. ”It was the worst one we’ve had this year, by far. He was trying to come back and he did a great job in rehab. I think at the end, it got closer and closer.
”Could he have played against New Orleans? If it was the Super Bowl, maybe. But I’m not sure of that.”
Holmes, speaking after practice, acknowledged that he’s excited about the prospects of playing this weekend, but is trying to remain cautiously optimistic.
”At this point, it’s still day by day,” he said. ”I’m inching a lot closer to playing and I just have to get the green light from the trainers. I can say, `Yeah, I want to play,’ but the production on the field at practice and during the rehab stuff has to be drastically improved for them to give me the green light.”
His return would be a big boost to the Jets’ receiving corps, which will be without Jeremy Kerley for at least a few weeks with a dislocated elbow. Holmes, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, has 10 catches for 243 yards and a TD in four games.
”At this point, being 5-4, we need all of our hands on deck,” Holmes said. ”So to get an opportunity to play with this team and to push for a playoff run is something that all of us want around here. I definitely have got to continue to take it one day at a time and be smart about the decision I want to make for the team and not just for myself.”
When healthy, Holmes is a proven playmaker and a player who commands attention from opposing defenses. That could open opportunities for others, including Stephen Hill, who was held without a catch against New Orleans and has just 10 receptions for 107 yards in the five games Holmes has been sidelined.
The Jets have had to rely on contributions from unlikely sources in recent weeks, such as David Nelson, Josh Cribbs, Greg Salas and Zach Sudfeld – all of whom who weren’t on the team until last month.
”Tone definitely brings a lot of energy to our offense and veteran leadership,” rookie quarterback Geno Smith said. ”He’s obviously a tremendous playmaker and can make plays out on the field. It’s just good to have him back. He’s a guy who definitely was a major part of this offense and we missed having over the span of time he wasn’t here.”
Smith and Holmes were still working on building a rapport at the time of the receiver’s injury. Holmes was gradually worked back into the offense during training camp as he healed from his foot injury, and that slowed the chemistry.
There were simple things such as knowing the routes Holmes likes to run, how Smith delivers the football and developing a trust in each other that the two are just getting back to improving.
”At this point right now, it’s about moving forward and looking forward for what we can do now,” Holmes said, ”and not worry about what we didn’t have in the beginning.”
There’s more good news for Smith and the Jets’ offense: Tight ends Kellen Winslow Jr. and Jeff Cumberland are expected to return. Winslow is back off a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy, while Cumberland missed New York’s last game because of a concussion.
”It makes our offense, I think, not only more diverse, but it gives is a chance to exploit some matchups,” Smith said.
Kerley didn’t practice, as expected, and Hill was limited with foot and knee ailments, but Ryan downplayed those.
”I think he’s had some of those (injuries),” Ryan said of Hill. ”And, again, he practice. He was limited, but I don’t know how limited. He looked pretty good to me.”
Defensive end Leger Douzable (illness) and linebacker Garrett McIntyre (knee) did not practice, while defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis (back) and backup running back Alex Green (hamstring) were limited.