Jets 3rd-rounder Ellis waiting for chance to play
Kenrick Ellis knows his time will come with the New York Jets.
The rookie nose tackle's coaches tell him to be patient, and so do his teammates. A third-round pick in April, Ellis was expected to be a big part of Rex Ryan's defense. And, he still might be - at some point.
But so far, Ellis has been stuck on the sideline with the rest of the team's inactive players through the first four games.
''When I'm needed, they'll activate me,'' Ellis said. ''There's no stress or anything like that. There can't be. Why should there be? You can't go out here frustrated. You have to keep working and trying to be better everyday.''
That's why he approaches every practice as if it's game day. That's all he has for now.
''I mean, I have a great group of veterans in front of me and they're playing really well,'' he said. ''What can a rookie do? You just have to play your role, which is, right now, helping the guys get better in practice. That's my role. I'll just keep doing that.''
While the 6-foot-4, 346-pound Ellis is still working on keeping his pads low as well as fine-tuning his footwork and hand placement, it has mostly been a numbers game that has kept him from making his NFL debut. Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine have been carrying more defensive backs than linemen, based on the tendencies of the opposing offenses.
Ryan said Friday that will likely be the case again Sunday, when the Jets play Tom Brady and the pass-happy New England Patriots.
''It's just a matter of time for that young man,'' Ryan said.
Both Ryan and Pettine said Ellis has been in the discussion every week as far as the last few players to make the active roster.
''Obviously, I want to play,'' Ellis said, ''but the coaches have to do what's best for us to win. And if that's playing more DBs, it's OK with me.''
Ellis is certainly saying all the right things and appears to be a humble guy in the locker room, but make no mistake: He's eager for the opportunity to make his debut.
''I remember how frustrated I was when I first came in and I sat, and I was a free agent,'' defensive lineman Mike DeVito said. ''We know he'll be ready to go when the time comes, and it's not a matter of if, but when. The guy's got such power. He reminds me of Kris Jenkins where he just fires off the ball, is so fast and can just bring it.''
That's exactly what the Jets saw in him at Hampton, where he was a star for three seasons while stuffing the run and dominating opponents.
''We talk all the time, and I mean, the guy, he's a great player,'' said defensive lineman Marcus Dixon, a friend and former Hampton standout. ''The coaches know it. They didn't draft him in the third round to just sit. He's going to be a great player for the New York Jets.''
But, there was some baggage that came along with the pick. Ellis had some legal troubles after he was arrested following a fight on campus in April 2010 and was indicted on a malicious wounding charge. The trial has been delayed several times, with the date currently set for Feb. 7, 2012. A native of Jamaica with permanent resident status in the United States, Ellis could possibly face deportation if convicted of an aggravated felony.
''I don't really think about it, man,'' Ellis said. ''I just have to focus on what I can control, and right now, that's just giving my best effort to help make the team better.''
There were other things, though. He was dismissed from South Carolina's football team in 2008 for what the school called ''repeated violations of team and university policy'' before transferring to Hampton.
''I'm a pretty straightforward guy and when we got Kenrick, he did everything he was supposed to do,'' Hampton coach Donovan Rose told The Associated Press shortly after Ellis was drafted. ''The fight was the only incident he ever got into in three years here. Some guys, you can't trust, but when you sit and talk with him, you know he's a genuine guy. He made a mistake. What was kind of difficult was everybody judging him off that one incident, but I wish I had more like Ken Ellis.''
Some fans and media wondered if the Jets were getting a player with some serious character issues. Things were written about him that were less than flattering, and Ellis acknowledged that it all bothered him.
''Until you talk to me and know me as a person, you can only perceive from what other people say and what you see out there,'' he said. ''So, of course, I thought that I was being perceived as someone I wasn't. I knew that everybody in here was going to let my actions and who I am speak for themselves and not make judgments about me.''
His Jets teammates rave about his attitude and, to a man, say Ellis has been a terrific addition to the locker room.
''He's a pretty chill, laid-back individual,'' nose tackle Sione Pouha said. ''I never even knew anything like that was going on when he was drafted. A lot of people would be missing out if they're just going to base things on that other stuff.''
Ellis works on his conditioning everyday after practice, and tries to improve his technique. He routinely bounces things off the other defensive linemen, hoping to get better while waiting for his chance.
''Basically, you're just a dumb rookie and there's a lot of stuff you don't know and have to learn,'' Ellis said with a big smile. ''That's how it is. You just have to catch up. I'll just keep working.''
Notes: The Jets started using buzzers during practice that sound off during passing plays after a set time, in an attempt to help QB Mark Sanchez get rid of the ball faster and increase the offense's tempo. Ryan says it was something Bill Parcells used to do during his coaching career. ''By the time practice was over, we'd already trimmed a second off each (play),'' Ryan said. ''The routes were great, full speed and I think added to our practice.''
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