FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Joe McKnight has been downright angry at times this summer.
Frustrated, too. And embarrassed. Scared, also.
It has been a tumultuous few weeks for the New York Jets running back who has often been the subject of controversy during training camp — some of it brought on by himself, which he readily acknowledges.
“How am I dealing with all of this? It’s been rough,” he told The Associated Press after practice Tuesday.
“I’ve just got to deal with it. Some people might not like how I deal with it, but I’m going to deal with it the way I want to deal with it. There’s nobody else dealing with it.
“It’s just me.”
There have been questions about McKnight’s health, an arrest for unpaid traffic warrants, a concussion, migraine headaches, a few questionable posts on Twitter and some tension with the media. And that’s all just in the past few weeks.
So where does he go from here?
“Yeah, I’m all right now,” McKnight said. “I’m over it all, but for what’s going on, I know who my enemies are and who’s with me. I’ve just got to address those people accordingly.”
And, “those people” are mostly critical fans and members of the media who judge him based on what they’ve read on Twitter or heard through speculation. McKnight isn’t looking for any sympathy and realizes there has been plenty for people to talk about.
He didn’t pass his conditioning test the day before the team reported to SUNY Cortland, but did so the next day. He blamed it on dehydration and his low percentage of body fat (3.3 percent).
The 25-year-old McKnight was arrested three weeks ago in New Jersey — on a day off from camp — for outstanding traffic warrants, and later released on $320 bail, the amount of the tickets. He declined to comment on that incident.
He then injured his head during practice — something the Jets never officially called a concussion — and was cleared to return a few days later, wearing a red no-contact jersey.
After practice that day, McKnight spoke to reporters for three minutes, but refused to answer any questions about his concussion or the arrest, repeatedly saying, “I’m not getting into that right now.”
Last Monday, McKnight was carted to the locker room, wearing an oxygen mask, after dropping to the field during a drill. He had taken a knee three times on his way to the field earlier that day.
“I had a migraine all that morning,” he said. “People don’t know that I deal with migraines. So, I was dealing with that and then I hit my head on the ground on that play and it made the migraine even worse, plus I was just coming back from a concussion.
“That was scary for me. But I had to do what the doctors told me.”
Later that morning, though, while recovering, McKnight angrily responded on Twitter to someone he thought was a reporter who wrote, “about time you get released. Good luck. And stay healthy.”
McKnight tweeted about trying to keep his cool before adding “now it has gone too far with these reporters.”
He then asked, “Are you outside?,” but a Jets public relations staff member assured McKnight the critical tweet had not come from a reporter but a fan.
“There’s nobody else being talked about on Twitter but me, so I’ve got to deal with it,” McKnight said. “And, I’ve got to deal with it the best way possible.”
That has been the toughest part for McKnight, who has leaned on training camp roommate Kellen Winslow Jr. to try to get through it all.
“I just look at Joe and I just feel what he’s going through,” Winslow said. “I think he might be misunderstood. I see his heart, you know? Good dude, man. There’s nothing you can really do except continue day to day and improve, and I guess try to prove people wrong.”
Winslow, who signed with the Jets in June, dealt with plenty of controversy himself as a young player in the NFL in Cleveland and even during his college career at the University of Miami.
“We’ve got kind of like the same personalities and everything,” McKnight said. “We’re very outspoken and those types of things. He’s just been trying to tell me, ‘You should never let yourself show anybody that you’re frustrated or anything like that.’ I try not to, but sometimes it gets the best of me.”
Ignoring critics has been the toughest thing for McKnight, even back to his days at Southern California when he was being compared to Reggie Bush.
In the pros, he has been labeled by some as a dynamic player who is banged up too often and inconsistent.
“I’ve got to think about the team and sometimes I have to put the team first and just let people talk,” he said. “That’s going to be a tough thing for me, but I’ve got to learn to do that. It’s a work in progress for me right now, and I’m going to get it right. Sometimes, I’ve just got to learn how to ignore things.”
Winslow has been talking to McKnight about exactly that during the last few weeks.
“I feel like I’m just Joe’s brother, you know?” Winslow said. “His older brother who helps keep him on the right path. Not that he needs me to help keep him on the right path, but it’s about doing things right all the time.”
That’s the immediate goal for McKnight, the team’s primary kick returner the past two seasons, who was a full participant at practice Tuesday — without the red no-contact jersey.
He insists he’ll play in the Jets’ preseason game Saturday night against the Giants, and realizes he’s no lock to make the team’s final roster.
“I just came back from an injury, so I don’t feel like I’m comfortable,” he said. “I have to get on the field this week, these next two games, and then prove something. 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.”
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