CINCINNATI - Antonio Allen tried to stay positive, but standing on the sideline never suited him much.
When the Jets trotted out aging Ed Reed in an ill-fated, last-ditch effort to make the playoffs last season, Allen stood and just watched.
And it wasn't easy.
"It was a rocky road. It was definitely frustrating playing 60 plays a game and then a guy comes in and you're only playing 10 or getting three reps," Allen told Newsday after Saturday night's 25-17 preseason win over the Bengals. "It's just adversity you've got to overcome."
Less than a year later, Rex Ryan is raving about the South Carolina product, who, according to the Jets' coach, has Pro Bowl potential as a safety. And thanks to myriad injuries at the cornerback spot, Allen has emerged as a reliable stopgap -- perhaps even a long-term fix.
On Saturday night he lined up against Mohamad Sanu and star wideout A.J. Green. And aside from a 35-yard reception he surrendered to Green, Allen was pleased with his performance.
"He's a good athlete," he said of Green, who caught three passes for 69 yards. "They're going to complete some balls and we're going to knock some of them down and intercept them. But for the most part, I think I did pretty well out there."
Allen said he wasn't the least bit fazed when Ryan informed him that he'd be starting at cornerback and lining up opposite Green, one of the best receivers in the NFL.
"I was amped up about the situation," he said, adding that he wishes more passes had been thrown in his direction. "I'm never going to back down from the competition. I always step up when it's thrown at me."
The Reed experiment didn't last too long last season, and after a few games, the Jets called upon Allen -- just as they're doing now.
"I think the Jets knew what they had early on. Even as a rookie, I still balled out in training camp," he said. "It was just the correct timing, I guess. There's no better time than now. I'm doing pretty good for myself, playing cornerback and safety. It's just overcoming, man. Just overcoming everything and staying positive."
Allen isn't sure how long his experiment at cornerback will last. But he's perfectly fine if the Jets decide to bring in someone else off the street and move him back to safety.
"I'm an athlete," said Allen, who also played linebacker in college. "I can play any position. I'm an athlete. Just gotta get the plays.''
At the end of the day, Allen doesn't care where he is on the field as long as he's starting.
"Pretty much," he said, smiling.