FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Officially, the Jets listed receiver Jeremy Kerley as doubtful on their final injury report before their game Sunday in Baltimore.
But coach Rex Ryan wasn't too optimistic about his leading receiver playing against the Ravens, making a point Friday to refer to Kerley's game-time status as "very doubtful."
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Still, that Kerley is even close to returning is somewhat stunning, considering how gruesome his dislocated left elbow appeared when the injury occurred.
After a running play against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 3, Kerley broke his fall with his left arm. He then was hit from behind by the Saints' David Hawthorne, and Kerley's elbow rolled awkwardly underneath Hawthorne's shoulder.
Speaking to reporters Friday after practice for the first time since the injury, Kerley described the immediate sensation in his elbow as "the worst pain I've ever felt."
"I thought the worst," he said. "I thought it was ripped or something."
And he wasn't the only one who anticipated the worst. After watching the video, how could anyone think otherwise?
"It was ugly, there's no question," Ryan said. "That was -- I don't know how else to describe it -- a horrific-looking injury."
But Kerley said the diagnosis was "a slight dislocation," perhaps the best news he could have received. Fast-forward two weeks, and here he is practicing with his teammates, albeit making catches with only his right arm while keeping his left arm in a compact position.
"It's like nothing ever happened, man," Kerley said. "One hand, two hands, it don't matter. If they throw it, I'm going to try to catch it."
Therein is the biggest problem with playing Kerley Sunday. The last thing the Jets want is for Kerley to try something too soon, exposing him to further injury.
Ryan believes only three NFL receivers in the last decade have suffered a dislocated elbow, leaving very little in the form of a track record for a recovery. So the Jets are trying to proceed cautiously, which is why Kerley is catching balls one-handed in practice.
Kerley said he hasn't tried to fully extend his left arm since the injury.
"We're taking a lot of caution right now, trying not to fully extend or anything like that," he said, "just so nothing kind of jumps out of place."
Kerley refused to guess when he might be ready to play in a game again, saying only that if it were up to him, there would be no decision to make about Sunday.
"I'm looking to jump back on the field tomorrow, whenever," he said.
That's not his call, of course, and the Jets, for competitive reasons, aren't going to map out when they foresee Kerley out there again.
"We'll see how it goes," Ryan said. "He's way further along than people were assuming."