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Jets' Dee Milliner happy to be injury-free and making plays

New York Jets cornerback Dee Milliner works out

New York Jets cornerback Dee Milliner works out during a mandatory minicamp at the team's facility, Tuesday, June 9, 2015, in Florham Park, N.J. Credit: AP / Julio Cortez

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Dee Milliner had imagined this day for months -- the day when he would be able to play football again.

"Oh, yeah, most definitely," Milliner said Saturday. "I haven't been [able to practice] since October, so it's been a long time, and it just felt good being back out there."

On the first day of full-contact practices at Jets training camp, the player who drew the most praise from coach Todd Bowles was Milliner, the third-year cornerback who missed most of last year because of a torn Achilles tendon. Milliner caught Bowles' eye when he made a big play early in 11-on-11 drills, running stride-for-stride with a receiver and forcing an incomplete pass on a deep throw by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"He showed up and made a play, so I noticed him," Bowles said of Milliner, whom the Jets drafted ninth overall out of Alabama in 2013. " . . . To see him out there healthy and not making any mental mistakes was a good thing."

Milliner, who played in only 16 games in his first two seasons because of injuries, said he felt the pressure to make that first big play of the day when he saw the ball coming his way.

"In the back of my head, I'm like, 'Not the first time I get out here. I can't give up a bomb the first time I get out here,' " Milliner said.

"It was a good play. Trying to make a play on the ball. I just felt comfortable. I'm happy to get back on the field."

Milliner, 23, who didn't participate in team drills during the Jets' OTAs and minicamp in June, said he was not restricted in any way, nor did he feel rusty. He did so much preparation during his rehab, he said, that in his first practice in more than nine months, he felt as if he had never been injured.

Milliner has been injured a lot in his football career; he had five surgeries in college. But he hopes that is all in his past now.

"I'm ready to put that behind me," he said with a laugh. "No injuries, so I'm trying to keep it that way. I just do my maintenance in the training room so I can stay out of the training room."

Originally drafted to replace Darrelle Revis, Milliner now finds himself an understudy with the return of Revis and Antonio Cromartie, as well as the addition of Buster Skrine, who figures to be the nickel back.

Asked if he believes he has a role in the defense this season, Milliner said he doesn't know.

"When they just tell me to get out there,'' he said, "I'll get out there."


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