NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Former Jets offensive lineman Damien Woody is no Kerri Strug.
So when the 320-pound Woody tries to balance on a metal strip laying on the artificial turf at the TEST Sports Club workout center, part of his rehab from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, it is, well, a bit awkward.
It’s also productive, as are his, uh, leaps on a mini-trampoline, and his squats while holding weights in each hand, his back pushing against a huge, round ball.
And when Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery imitates the crane pose from “The Karate Kid” to enhance his balance and rotational skills? Simply part of his regimen as he heals from back surgery.
Woody, a free-agent tackle who was hurt in the Jets’ playoff victory at Indianapolis last January, and Cotchery are among dozens of NFL players fighting back from major injuries on their own because of the league’s labor lockout.
They all would be recovering and working at their team’s facilities had there been no lockout, which is in its fourth month. And each of them normally would be fighting the itch to rush back and join their teammates for minicamps and the like.
This year, as the labor impasse continues, these players might be benefiting from the work stoppage.
“This has given a lot of guys time to heal and to get rid of those nagging little injuries, too,” Cotchery says following more than an hour’s worth of exercises, during which he displays the intense concentration any NFL wideout must have. “You can go at your own pace, get your rest, and that has benefited a lot of guys.”
Adds Woody, with a tired smile, his T-shirt soaked with sweat: “Even if there were an offseason program now, I’d be doing rehab. I don’t have to worry about the football side at all, just focus on getting 100 percent, and I’m getting closer. It’s an opportunity to freshen up all the other aches and pains you get from playing 12 seasons in the NFL. So, yeah, in a way it’s perfect timing to have the lockout.”
Woody was released by the Jets on March 1, but he hopes to be back with them once he is fully recovered from what he calls “the most major injury of my career.” He intends on playing somewhere in 2011, if there’s a season.
So he spends his mornings at TEST, along with Cotchery; Jets star linebacker Bart Scott; defensive tackle Barry Cofield, a former Giant who is a free agent; and several other NFL players. Brian Martin, CEO of the facility and another in Florida, has several former players on his staff, plus a rehabilitating player in Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington.
“We’re very careful to make sure we are in no way competing with what the teams do or want their players doing,” Martin says. “But they know the players are getting intensive personal care and rehab work here from a highly trained group of professionals. Our only purpose is to help the players who are recovering from injuries to get well, or to keep the other players who come here, like Bart, in the best of shape.”
Players who were injured last season have their recoveries paid for by their teams under workman’s compensation plans.
There’s supposed to be football right around now, too, from minicamps to optional workouts. Without that structure, players have had to improvise to get their own regimen in place.
Cotchery is one of the NFL’s most graceful players, yet he struggles with some of the movements Martin and his staff ask him to do. He admits the most difficult are those designed to enhance his balance and stabilization, and he attacks them as if he was going after a Mark Sanchez pass in traffic.
At times, he gets frustrated. A botched exercise is no different to Cotchery on this June day than a drop in November.
“If you don’t hit the rep right, you want to do it over and over,” he says. “If I feel like I conquered that exercise, it makes me feel better when I come in the next day.
“There’s no football, so I want to come in the next day ready to give my rehab everything I can give it.”
How long will Cotchery and Woody have to rehab before the lockout ends? Sound off below…
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)