Jets' Rookie End: Preseason Knee Injury Prevented Me From Getting In Top Shape

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Leonard Williams wants to shape up for the rest of the New York Jets’ season.

The rookie defensive end acknowledged he felt tired at points during his NFL debut, a 31-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in which he had five total tackles.

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“They had a few long drives and I just noticed I was getting pretty tired on those drives,” Williams said Monday. “I was coming out of my stance slow, kind of raising up and not staying low. It was just from being tired.”

Williams was the No. 6 overall pick this year, and many believed he was the best player available in this year’s draft. The Jets jumped at the chance to take Williams, who was a dominant force at Southern California.

He had a solid training camp before dealing with a knee injury in the third preseason game against the Giants. Williams recovered in time to fully practice last week and get on the field for his first NFL regular-season game, but felt the injury might have hampered his ability to be in even better condition. He watched film of his performance and was far from satisfied.

“I don’t feel like I played to my best ability, to be honest,” Williams said. “I think part of it is just conditioning. I feel like in college, we did a lot of conditioning. It’s kind of up to myself now to take care of that on my own, like after practice or something like that.”

Williams, who started in place of the suspended Sheldon Richardson, played on 49 of the Jets’ 71 defensive snaps against the Browns. He said the coaches didn’t point the conditioning issues out to him, but rather it was something he noticed during the game.

Coach Todd Bowles thought Williams was being a bit too hard on himself after just one game.

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“I think he got winded because I thought emotionally he was too high,” Bowles said. “When you have spit on the side of your mouth and you’re slobbering and you’re in warmup and pregame and everything like that, it’s typical to happen to a rookie their first game out. They want to do well and they come out hyperventilating.”

Bowles clarified that that might not have been completely the case with Williams, but added that he thought the rookie’s conditioning was good enough.

“We run over 100-something plays a day in practice, from a physical standpoint,” Bowles said. “I just think he needs to calm down going into the game.”

Williams planned to discuss extra work with Justus Galac, the team’s strength and conditioning coach. The rookie figures he can do extra laps after practice to help build his endurance without wearing himself out over the course of a long season.

“There were still some times, besides the fact that I felt unconditioned, that I wasn’t really getting up field as much as I wanted to,” Williams said. “It was little things technique-wise that I can just improve on every week.”

NOTES: Bowles announced that game balls went to K Nick Folk, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, CB Marcus Williams, WR Brandon Marshall and RB Chris Ivory. … QB Ryan Fitzpatrick on recovering a botched snap in the second quarter during which he flipped on his head as several Browns players pounced: “There was a big game of Yankee-doodle going on under the pile and I was the one that had it.” … Bowles said he received lots of congratulatory texts for his first win as Jets coach. When asked if one came from Gladys Knight, his favorite Motown artist, Bowles laughed. “Nothing from Gladys,” he said, “or I wouldn’t be here today.” When it was suggested that the Jets could try to get Knight to sing the national anthem before a home game, a smiling Bowles shook his head. “Can’t do that,” he said. “Then I’ll be no good for the game.”

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