Joe McKnight and Braylon Edwards are suddenly out of work, surprising cuts by the New York Jets on Monday.
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For McKnight, a backup running back and the team’s primary kick returner the past two seasons, it’s the latest setback in a tumultuous summer. Edwards’ departure in his third stint with the Jets could put his career in jeopardy.
”Both those guys, both Joe and Braylon, had tremendous moments for us,” coach Rex Ryan said. ”They contributed a lot to our franchise, without question, but we’re trying to move forward.”
Veteran guard Stephen Peterman, who was signed in the offseason and appeared in line to start at left guard until recently, was also released as the Jets reduced their active roster to 75 players by the NFL’s Tuesday deadline.
Also cut were: running back Chad Spann, offensive linemen Patrick Ford and Trey Gilleo, wide receivers Joe Collins, Marcus Rucker, K.J. Stroud and Rahsaan Vaughn, linebacker Sean Progar-Jackson, defensive backs Donnie Fletcher and Bret Lockett, punter Ryan Quigley and long snapper Patrick Scales.
The Jets released tight end Hayden Smith on Monday night after placing running back Mike Goodson on the active/non-football injury/illness list.
McKnight, the team’s fourth-round draft pick in 2010, was involved in a series of incidents this summer that included an arrest for unpaid traffic warrants, a concussion, migraine headaches, a few questionable posts on Twitter and some tension with the media.
He was active for the first time this preseason on Saturday night after being sidelined by a concussion, but did not play.
In an interview with The Associated Press last week, McKnight said he didn’t feel comfortable about his roster status.
”I have to get on the field this week, these next two games, and then prove something,” he said last Tuesday. ”I’ve got to make sure these next few practices and these last two preseason games are real good. I’ve just got to get out there on the field and make some plays. I just need to do this.”
He never made it onto the playing field against the Giants, even on kickoffs, which seemed curious at the time. McKnight has two career kickoff returns for touchdowns, including a team-record 107-yard return in 2011 that stands as the longest play in Jets history.
Kyle Wilson, Clyde Gates, Jeremy Kerley and even Antonio Cromartie might now serve as the team’s kick returners.
In May, McKnight angrily responded to speculation that his time with the Jets could soon be up, saying: ”They’ll have to kill me to take my spot.”
McKnight didn’t pass his conditioning test the day before the team reported for training camp to SUNY Cortland last month, but did so the next day. He was arrested in New Jersey on a day off from camp last month for outstanding traffic warrants, and later released on bail.
McKnight then injured his head during practice – he confirmed it was a concussion although the Jets never officially called it a concussion – and was cleared to return a few days later, wearing a red no-contact jersey.
He refused to answer questions that day about the concussion or arrest, repeatedly saying, ”I’m not getting into that right now.”
Two weeks ago, McKnight was carted to the locker room, wearing an oxygen mask, after banging his head on the ground during a play. He had taken a knee three times on his way to the field earlier that day while dealing with a migraine headache.
Later that morning, he angrily responded on Twitter to someone he thought was a reporter who wrote that he should get released.
The final straw for the Jets might have come last week when McKnight, refusing to speak to the media, gave a reporter one of the team-issued media ”bridges” cards that was given to players with suggested talking points for interviews.
”I’m over it all, but for what’s going on, I know who my enemies are and who’s with me,” he told the AP last week. ”I’ve just got to address those people accordingly.”
Edwards was dealing with a leg injury that kept him out of the team’s preseason game against the Giants on Saturday night. Edwards was signed just before training camp began last month, marking his third tenure with the Jets.
He had been given rest days throughout camp as a precaution after dealing with recent knee issues, but the Jets appear to have moved on.
The team signed Mohamed Massaquoi last week to add depth to the receiving group, and had two catches for 36 yards while Edwards wasn’t active.
The 30-year-old Edwards played his first four seasons in Cleveland, and was acquired by the Jets in 2009. He signed with San Francisco as a free agent in 2011, and was claimed late last season off waivers by the Jets from Seattle.
”Will we close our door on a player returning? No, I don’t believe so,” Ryan said. ”But right now, this is what we felt was in the best interest of our football team overall.”
Peterman was signed in April after spending the past seven seasons with Detroit. The improved play of Vladimir Ducasse and rookie Brian Winters at left guard made him expendable. Peterman was also working a bit at center to potentially back up Nick Mangold.