MARTINSVILLE, N.J. - Sweat pours off Kris Jenkins' head as he nears the end of a morning workout, his latest step in an unlikely comeback attempt from a second torn knee ligament. Jenkins lies flat on his back as his personal trainer, Geir Gudmundsen, stretches out the defensive tackle's hamstrings.
"I feel so much better now than I did last year, and it's a great feeling to have," said Jenkins, 31. "I'd say right now, I'm over 60 percent, but I'll get going even more in the next month or so, so that [percentage] will really shoot up."
Jenkins re-injured his left knee in the regular season opener, this after suffering the same injury midway through the 2009 season. It was a major setback for a player who had toyed with the idea of retirement, but Jenkins now feels reinvigorated about making another comeback bid.
And he has taken the unusual step of working out on his own, which brought Jenkins to the TEST Sports Clubs, which has designed a meticulous rehab program. He already feels a difference, and now believes he can play longer than even he envisioned.
"In just the two weeks I've been here, I know I can go play another couple years," he said.
Jenkins isn't sure he could have said the same thing had he decided to work out with the Jets. He admits he had grown frustrated with the team's rehab regimen the last two years, and believes it contributed to his injury problems.
"Absolutely," he said, when asked if he could trace his injury problems to what he considered deficiencies in the training program. "I was upset because I know what I can do, and I wasn't at the level I wanted to be."
Jenkins declined to point the finger at anyone specifically on the Jets' staff.
"I'm not throwing anybody under the bus, and I'm not going to say any names, but your rehab goes two-fold," he said. "It's what goes on in the training room, and it's part strength and conditioning. Honestly, I wasn't getting what I needed to get. I don't point the finger, because at the end of the day, it's partly me, too. I didn't cry about it. I didn't complain about it. I just tried to do the best I could to get back on the field, but it wasn'tenough."
It's not clear whether Jenkins was referring to former strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi, who was suspended and then fired by the team last season after he admitted forming a wall with players on the sideline during a punt return against the Dolphins. But Jenkins believes his decision to train on his own will ultimately benefit him.
"I wasn't getting what I needed to get in the weight room,"he said. "That's the bottom line."
Jenkins said he consulted with John Melody, the Jets' head trainer, and received the go-ahead to train with TEST, which also works with several draft-eligible players each year to prepare them for the Scouting Combine. Jenkins worked in a corner of the TEST field house, while a dozen or so players went through their preparation for this week's Combine.
"You've got to find what's best for you in this game, and that's how it goes," Jenkins said. "I have to train like I've never trained before in my life, and I have to train on another level so I can compete."
Jenkins hopes his new regimen will add years to his career - even if his career doesn't continue with the Jets. He's heard plenty of speculation that the team might release him in a salary-related move, although he has heard nothing specific from the team.
"I'm an older guy, my [salary] cap number's higher," hesaid. "If they want me here, fine. If they don't, then fine. I'm loyal to the Jets right now. That's who I play for. But if that relationship ends, I'll deal with it as a man and keep moving. It's not the end of the world. I'll be ok."