Jets defensive end Carl Lawson rushes the passer against the...

Jets defensive end Carl Lawson rushes the passer against the Giants during the first quarter of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Aug. 28. Credit: Brad Penner

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Carl Lawson is sure he will feel some emotions in Sunday's opener. Not because he’s back on the field, but because of who’s in the building.

Lawson’s father, Carl Lawson, Sr, will be at MetLife Stadium when the Jets host the Ravens. There was a time, right around when Carl signed his contract with the Jets in 2021, that he wasn’t sure if his father would survive.

Carl Sr. had COVID-19 and was hospitalized for more than two months. His son admitted it was touch-and-go sometimes. Now, Carl Sr. is making the trip up from Georgia to see Carl play his first NFL regular-season game in 20 months.

“My Dad’s a big part of my life,” Lawson said. “My Mom’s coming up too. But you never know. I thought I was going to lose him a while ago right around the time after I signed my contract. I was like, ‘Dang, he wouldn’t even get to see me play as a Jet.’

“I think that’s why it’s important to me because you never know when your last opportunity for anything is. He wants to come watch me play, that’s why it’s important.”

Lawson, who signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Jets, missed all of last season after rupturing his Achilles in August. The talented edge rusher rehabbed feverishly and tirelessly to be fully healthy at the start of this season.

Each time Lawson spoke to reporters, he mostly downplayed what he went through and what it means to him to be playing again. He has come back from injuries before. He’s most thankful that his return will be in front of his father, who is also a kidney-transplant recipient.

“I’m just really happy that my family gets to be there. That’s probably the biggest emotions,” Lawson said. “My family gets to come watch me play. Dad hasn’t seen me play in a long time. It’s just big emotion that way. As far as the game, we get 17 opportunities this year so it’s not anything crazy about this one.”

Carl Lawson Sr. is a former football player. He played fullback on Georgia Tech’s 1990 national championship team. Carl said his father would come to many of his games when he was at the University of Auburn. He attended some when he was with the Bengals, too.

Lawson wondered if his father would ever see him play for the Jets.

“It was really, really bad,” Lawson said. “He was in the hospital forever. There were some days you just didn’t know. I really want him to come watch me play for that particular reason.”

Lawson doesn’t know what he will do or whether he will look at where his father is sitting if he sacks Lamar Jackson or makes any kind of important play.

“I’m going to be focused on the game,” he said. “I’m not going to be like, ‘Where is Pops at?’ I’ll know he’s got everything coordinated.”

The Jets are excited to have Lawson back and are expecting those big defensive plays from him. Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said Lawson is “a unicorn.”

Lawson dominated training camp last year. He routinely beat whatever tackle was in front of him in practice, giving a glimpse of what he could be in Robert Saleh’s attacking 4-3 front. Ulbrich said Lawson has knocked off the rust every day and he’s ready to peak

“He is absolutely impossible to replicate,” Ulbrich said. “He brings not only pass rush, he brings skill, but he also brings toughness and a mindset that absolutely rubs off on other people. We missed him last year. We’re excited to have him back. We really are.”

Lawson said a successful season for him is helping the Jets win and getting to the playoffs. He’s never played the woe-is-me card and he’s not starting now.

“I really would feel bad about my circumstances if I didn’t give it my all,” he said. “At the end of the day, when I look back at it, I’m going to do everything I can do and I’m doing everything I can do. So I’m never truly disappointed.”  

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