Rookie Dee Milliner says he'll fit in quickly
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Now that he's here, Dee Milliner is looking forward to earning his paycheck.
After missing the first four practices of Jets training camp because of stalled contract negotiations, the newly signed rookie cornerback said he's eager to prove he's not only healthy but also capable of transitioning seamlessly into the defense.
"I'm very much in shape, like I've been playing football the whole time," said Milliner, who spent his time away from the team rehabbing his injured right shoulder at Alabama, his alma mater. "I'm 100 percent back."
As of Sunday afternoon, he was one of only two NFL rookies still unsigned (the other being Titans pick Chance Warmack, who signed Monday). But late that night, Milliner and the Jets agreed to terms on a four-year deal. (According to NFL.com, he will receive $12.66 million that is fully guaranteed. The contract also includes offset language to prevent him from double-dipping if he's cut by the Jets and signs elsewhere.)
Monday was "a long, drowsy day" for the ninth overall pick, who spent four or five hours in the air traveling from Alabama to Atlanta to Syracuse. He arrived in Cortland between 5 and 6 p.m.
"It feels great to be back, a part of the team, seeing the teammates again and just to get back to football since I've been away from it for a while,'' said Milliner, who was unable to participate in the team's offseason program. "It was hard [knowing the other rookies were reporting]. I wanted to come back also . . . I know they were concerned about me.''
His arrival is a welcome sight for the Jets. But it remains to be seen how long it will take him to learn the defense. According to Milliner, not long.
He said he's "not really'' worried about picking things up quickly because "I've seen the plays, been a part of them in that practice, watching, learning. I just haven't been on the field. But it's football, so you get back out there, you get back in a roll of things. I know I'll be fine.''
Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman called Milliner "probably the most complete corner'' in the 2013 draft class, but the coaching staff said adjusting to the speed of the game will be his toughest challenge. And as of now, Thurman said there's no guarantee he will practice with the first team.
"He's got to earn it. Like everybody else,'' he said of Milliner, who'll compete with Kyle Wilson. "We don't just give anybody anything in this league. You have to earn it. We do expect him to be involved and highly competitive to be a starter, that's our anticipation, so we'll see.''
After making the decision to ship three-time All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Bucs days before the draft, the Jets sought to replenish their secondary by selecting Milliner, who spent three years playing in Nick Saban's defense. But with his first-round selection came the immediate comparisons to the NFL's best corner.
"I understand where people are coming from,'' Rex Ryan said. "But Darrelle was a special player. We'll see what kind of player Dee Milliner is. Dee Milliner will never be Darrelle Revis. He's going to be Milliner. And I think that's going to be good enough.''
Said Antonio Cromartie: "He's got to make sure he don't get himself caught up in trying to be compared to [Revis]. He's his own man . . . We're not asking him to be a Darrelle Revis.''
All they want is to see Milliner back on the field.
Though the training staff plans to ease him in, the rookie guaranteed he'll be ready to go.
Said Milliner: "I know I will be ready for contact.''