FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Before he even made it to his feet, Darron Lee heard a voice call out from the distance.
It was Todd Bowles. “Darron, come here,” his coach beckoned.
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Lee, the former Ohio State linebacker and Jets’ first-round pick knew immediately what he had done wrong. He had forgotten one of the cardinal rules on Day 1 of rookie minicamp: No tackling. And fullback Julian Howsare bore the brunt of Lee’s forgetfulness.
“Coach Bowles was saying, ‘Keep him up. No tackling. You don’t have any pads on, you can’t get anybody hurt,” Lee told Newsday on Saturday, a day after his innocent on-field faux pas. “I was like, ‘I know. My bad, Coach.’
“I’m just so used to what we did at Ohio State. I’m always going full-speed at everything that I do.”
He can fly to ball, that’s for sure. But along with the knocks on his size, the 6-1, 232-pound Lee also was criticized for his tackling during the pre-draft process. NFL.com’s scouting report noted that he was “involved in too many arm and shoestring tackles” and was “charged with 21 missed and five broken tackles over the last two seasons” with the Buckeyes.
According to a source, the Jets tried numerous times to trade up from No. 20 attempting to steal free-falling Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil during Round 1. But they were forced to bow out of potential trades because the asking price for compensation was too high. Instead, the organization took Lee, a young, athletic inside linebacker whom they believe has a bright future.
The learning curve is steep for all NFL rookies, but Lee isn’t worried about making another tackling mistake in practice. And if he does, he has Bowles and his mother, Candice, to answer to.
“She actually texted me and said, ‘Hey, take it easy. Don’t be tackling your teammates,’” Lee said, smiling. “It wasn’t even really like that. It was a complete accident.”
Rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg had another so-so day in practice. He flashed his strong arm again, but took several “sacks” and delivered a few offline throws. One of Hackenberg’s deflected passes turned into a pick 6 for tryout safety Alex Wells. Asked for a Day 2 assessment of their second-round pick, Bowles said: “We had a new install today so today was a lot like (Friday). They learned a whole bunch of different things. I didn’t see much difference.”
And, so far, no one “in particular” has stood out. “Right now, I am just looking to see if they know what to do as opposed to who is sticking out,” Bowles said. “You see some speed, you see some big guys out there, but no one in particular.”
Devin Smith’s return is still to be determined. The Jets’ 2015 second-round pick is still rehabbing his torn right ACL, which he suffered in Week 14 against the Titans, and it’s unclear if the former Ohio State receiver will be back by training camp. “Coming off an injury like that we will just have to wait and see,” Bowles said, referring to Smith, who also broke a few ribs during a training camp practice collision last summer . . . The youth movement at 1 Jets Drive is alive and well, but the door “is not closed” on re-signing aging veterans Calvin Pace and Antonio Cromartie, Bowles said.