FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Carl Lawson has tried not to reflect on what he’s been through over the past year or how hard he’s worked to return to football after rupturing his Achilles last Aug. 19.
Lawson acknowledged though that it may cross his mind on Thursday night when he starts visualizing what it will be like to step on the field and play with the Jets in their preseason opener in Philadelphia on Friday
“I am really appreciative to be back out there,” Lawson said following practice Wednesday.
Few doubted Lawson would be back this quickly. His work ethic and drive to be the best player that he can be pushed the Jets edge rusher through some rough days.
Lawson, who signed a three-year, $45 million contract last offseason, was having the best training camp of any of the Jets — by far. He was dominating the offensive line and living in the Jets’ backfield throughout camp.
Then Lawson injured himself while rushing Aaron Rodgers during a joint practice in Green Bay.
Lawson didn’t throw a pity party for himself. That’s not in his makeup.
Not being able to show all the work that he put in to get ready for last season and not being out there with his teammates were extremely hard for Lawson. But his sole focus was on getting his body and mind right for training camp.
Nothing or no one was going to stand in the way of Lawson proving he can come all the way back from this major injury.
“I want it as bad as you want to breathe,” Lawson said.
Lawson has shown some of the power and burst that he did a year ago. The Jets have had to limit him to make sure he doesn’t overdo it. They gave him a veteran’s rest day on Wednesday. He didn’t take part in team drills.
Robert Saleh said the plan right now is for Lawson to play on Friday. Maybe a series or two. The Jets think it will be important for him to get some snaps in a game for the first time since Jan. 3, 2021 — Lawson’s final game with the Bengals.
“I’m excited for him, especially that first snap just to get it out of the way for him,” Saleh said. “There’s still ease of mind that has to come through and just going out there and playing. I know he’s practicing, and he feels comfortable but it’s still going out there and playing and getting your pads loose.
“You don’t want to treat him like he’s in Bubble Wrap but at the same time you got to be smart. I love Carl and [I'm] really excited for him and where he’s at.”
Lawson is looking forward to it, too.
“I’m excited about that,” Lawson said. “Go out there and just get that feeling . . .Just getting that underneath my belt, I think that will be a huge confidence boost.”
The Jets will be cautious with Lawson, as they have been throughout camp. Lawson believes he could have participated in OTAs. The Jets didn’t clear him until the night before camp. Lawson is such an important piece of the Jets’ defense; they want him healthy and to see what kind of force he can when he’s unleashed.
Lawson does as well. He has said he believes he will be better than before he suffered the injury. Lawson is never satisfied. He said he’s “really far off” from where he wants to be, but he won’t stop pushing himself until he reaches a level that even Lawson admits may be unreachable.
“You want to never have a ceiling,” Lawson said. “You want to set expectations that can’t humanly be reached. That’s what I mean [by] better than: as far as I’m able to take it. That’s how good I want to be.
“I have the most ridiculous expectations for myself,” Lawson added. “I want a hundred sacks in a season. I want it all. I want to do something that’s not supposed to be possible. That’s my expectations for myself. That’s why I constantly feel like I’m behind.”
That hunger and that drive are what got Lawson back on the field. His goal is to stay there and be the player he knows he can be — for himself and for the Jets.