FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - There was some draft-day second-guessing when the Jets took Maryland cornerback Dexter McDougle in the third round, a seemingly high pick for a player who underwent major shoulder surgery early in his senior season. But the Jets believe they got a steal with McDougle, in large part because his draft stock fell because of the injury. On Wednesday, they finally got a peek at that talent on the practice field.
McDougle participated in drills for the first time without wearing a red jersey, worn by players who can't so much as be touched during practice. This time, he wore green, the same color as the rest of his defensive teammates.
"I'm just happy. I finally got out there, getting in there with the team and start running around, flying around, trying to make plays out there, so I was really happy today," McDougle said after an Organized Team Activity (OTA) session. "They gave me the head's-up a couple of days ago and I'm out there. I'm just happy right now. It's been, what, since September since I've [had the chance] to play football, so I'm just happy."
McDougle, who had started 27 straight games at Maryland, suffered a nasty injury in a game against Connecticut that required surgery to his right shoulder. Not only did he dislocate the shoulder, but he suffered a fractured scapula. The healing process kept him out of practice action until Wednesday, and McDougle is now expected to take part in next week's minicamp, set for Tuesday through Thursday.
"Since September my focus has been just to get healthy and to get back as fast as I can, just get the mental reps [while recovering] and just know what I'm supposed to do," said the 5-10, 196-pound corner. "I've been real patient up until this point. Then when I came in here and there was a green jersey hanging up, I was just real happy. All of the guys were like, 'Oh, he's out of the red, he's out of the red.' So it was just a really good time today. I'm happy and it will keep getting better from here."
Coach Rex Ryan mentioned McDougle's return to the team after practice, and the coach was thrilled by what he saw.
"Here's a kid that's been learning those 80 plays on defense, yet really hasn't been able to go through anything," Ryan said. "He's done the tough part and he's got to sit there and pay attention knowing he can't get on that field. And then to take it out there today, I know he was excited to finally get that green jersey on."
Notes & quotes: Ryan has been pleased by the progress of quarterbacks Geno Smith and Michael Vick. "Both guys are sharp. They're pushing themselves and they're pushing each other. That's what we wanted to have happen. When you do that, you make yourself better, you make your teammate better. That's what both guys have done." . . . Ryan said he doesn't expected recently signed running back Chris Johnson, who is recovering from offseason knee surgery, to do much, if anything, at next week's minicamp . . . Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley missed Wednesday's workout session because of a personal matter, Ryan said. In Kerley's place, wide receiver Eric Decker practiced returning punts.