FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Breece Hall never doubted he’d be back on the practice field this summer. His confidence and optimism were certainly tested during his 10-month journey from a surgically repaired knee.
“It was definitely bittersweet, really frustrating, like a little bit of everything,” the New York Jets’ second-year running back said after being activated from the physically unable to perform list Tuesday — a day after the team agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Dalvin Cook.
Hall was carted off the field in Denver in Week 7 last season after tearing the ACL and injuring the meniscus in his left knee in the second quarter of the Jets’ 16-9 victory — ending a promising rookie season.
He has been working his way back to health throughout the offseason, and the Jets maintained optimism Hall would be ready to play in the season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 11. His return to practice is a big step toward that happening.
“You have your good days, your bad days, the days where you don’t feel like doing stuff, the days where you want to do everything,” Hall said. “It’s like you’re an emotional train wreck throughout this whole process, but it’s been fun. It’s made me a lot mentally and physically tougher, for sure.
“Now I feel like if I can get past this, I can get past anything.”
Coach Robert Saleh has raved throughout camp about how good Hall has looked physically — and said the addition of Cook doesn’t change the timeline for when Hall will be fully ready.
“We’re going to take our time with him, like I’ve said from the beginning,” Saleh said. “If you ask him, he’s ready to go now. And he’s champing at the bit and wants to get in there with his teammates. But to have him back out there in pads, man he looks freakin’ good.”
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 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award. It went instead to teammate Garrett Wilson, who emerged as one of the NFL’s top young wide receivers.
Hall was limited at practice Tuesday, participating in individual drills but not team drills as he works back into full football shape.
“I’m looking forward to bigger things than just practicing,” Hall said with a smile. “It was just one extra step in the journey.”
He has his sights set on being ready to play in a game — and doing so in Week 1 remains a strong possibility.
“Yeah, I think I’ll be ready for it,” Hall said. “But at the end of the day, the coaches and myself, we’re going to do the best thing in my interests. I’m not going to put any unnecessary timeline on it. I’ll just leave it up to God and if my knee’s feeling good that day, then I’ll play.”
The move to activate Hall comes after the Jets bolstered their backfield by agreeing to terms with Cook, the former Minnesota star who has run for at least 1,000 yards in each of the past four seasons. He was released by the Vikings on June 8 for salary cap savings.
Cook, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, joins a suddenly loaded backfield that includes Hall, Michael Carter, Zonovan Knight, Damarea Crockett, fifth-round draft pick Israel Abanikanda and undrafted free agent Travis Dye.
“It’s nuts,” Carter said while shaking his head. “You can’t get this done on (the Madden NFL video game). It’s crazy.”
Added Hackett: “Everybody is going to have their opportunity to shine.”
Cook will not join the Jets for at least a week, Saleh said, because he’s expecting a baby soon. The coach added he doesn’t have a clear timeline of when Cook, who had offseason shoulder surgery, will be ready to practice when he joins the Jets.
“There’s a lot of different things you can do to create a bunch of headaches for defensive coaches,” Saleh said of his running back group. ”I look at it like our D-line — you can never have enough. Just let ’em rotate and be fresh, get downhill and wear people out.”
NOTES: G Alijah Vera-Tucker is day to day with an ankle injury that has bothered him for several days, Saleh said. … DE Carl Lawson (back) remains sidelined. … Saleh said the change from two joint practices to one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week was made with safety in mind, adding that injuries and fights between squads are typically more likely on the second day of those sessions.
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