Jets’ Breece Hall working way back after knee injury cut short promising rookie season

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Breece Hall still razzes Garrett Wilson about what could’ve been.

In the New York Jets running back’s mind, the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award absolutely would have been his.

And then Hall blew out his left knee in October, had surgery and spent the rest of his first NFL season rehabilitating his injury — while his playmaking teammate rose above all rookies with lots of impressive catches.

“If I wouldn’t have gotten hurt … ,” a smiling Hall said he tells Wilson. “But, nah, I don’t really care about that stuff anymore. All I can do is look forward and just try to work myself back to being that same Breece that was making all those plays last year.”

That has been the goal since Hall was carted off the field in Denver in Week 7 after tearing the ACL and injuring the meniscus in his left knee in the second quarter of the Jets’ 16-9 victory.

Until then, Hall quickly had established himself as the most dynamic playmaker in an otherwise struggling offense. His combination of speed and power made him a threat to score whenever he had the ball in his hands, as he showed early in that game against the Broncos with a 62-yard TD run during which he hit a top speed of 21.87 mph, according to Next Gen Stats — the fastest by a ball carrier to that point last season.

The second-round pick out of Iowa State finished with 463 yards on 80 attempts — an eye-popping 5.8 yards per carry — and four touchdowns in seven games. Hall also was becoming an overwhelming favorite to win the offensive rookie award.

“The past is the past,” Hall said. “I can’t really take it back.”

But he can certainly look ahead, knowing his knee is getting better every day — and he’s expected to be a key playmaker again in an upgraded offense led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“I’m feeling good,” Hall said. “It’s good to be back on the field, running around, doing drills and starting to cut and stuff.

“And feel like myself again.”

Hall, who turned 22 on Wednesday, sees “glimpses” of that. He spends the bulk of his time during voluntary practices working with the trainers. But the hope is he’ll participate fully in training camp in July and be ready to play in Week 1 of the regular season — which would be a remarkably fast recovery for an injury that can sideline some players for more than a year.

“Yeah, I’m very, very optimistic on that one,” coach Robert Saleh said. “I don’t want to jinx it. I mean, the kid’s already hitting over 22 (mph) on the GPS, so he looks freaking good.”

That Hall is flashing that kind of speed while running straight is promising. He said he hit 23 mph against Atlanta last summer but usually sits in the 20-23 mph range.

“Everybody — myself, the coaches, my teammates — wants me to be ready for Week 1,” Hall said. “But you’ve got to come back when you feel like you’re ready. So until I feel like I’m ready … I’ll just know.”

Hall, whose third cousin is three-time Super Bowl champion running back Roger Craig, has chatted with a few other running backs who have worked their way back from similar knee injuries. That includes the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, the 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey and the Titans’ Derrick Henry.

“It’s been cool just to talk to those guys about going through the injuries,” Hall said, “and how to keep your mental right and how to just keep pushing through and keep going every day.”

And Hall will continue to do that during the next three months — with the hope of running onto the field at MetLife Stadium and playing in the season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 11.

“He’s one of those kids that we’ve had to kind of hold back from him because there’s a process,” Saleh said. “It’s weird to say, but you don’t want to heal too fast with an ACL. You’ve got to be able to balance it out with the strength.

“He looks strong, he looks powerful, he’s learning. I mean, I’m excited for him to get back on the field.”


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