FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Dion Bailey doesn’t want much.
All the Jets safety is hoping for these days is to stay healthy.
“One full year,” Bailey said, enunciating every syllable with a smile.
Having had his first two seasons curtailed by injuries, and this past offseason slowed by another, he knows better than anyone how fleeting football can be. And how quickly roster spots can be taken away.
He’d be lying if he said the frustration never got to him, that disappointment didn’t get him down.
And on Saturday, he made the mistake of letting his emotions get the better of him.
Bailey, 24, had to be restrained on the sideline after giving up a pass to receiver Brandon Marshall over the middle. Bailey was so heated, he exchanged words with coaches and took off his helmet and shoulder pads. He also was heard saying, “they’re not even giving me a chance” and making a comment about being “disrespected.” Teammates later convinced him to put back on his uniform, and when practice was over, Bailey was spotted having a long talk with defensive backs coach Joe Danna.
The next day, though, he returned to the field with renewed focus. Bailey had a decent showing overall on Sunday, and even picked off a deflected Geno Smith pass in the end zone to end practice.
He declined, however, to discuss what had him so riled up on Saturday.
“I’m not really talking about that. That’s passed now,” Bailey told Newsday. “I’m happy to be out here again with my teammates doing what I love. Leave all those types of questions up to Coach [Todd] Bowles.”
Bowles said he didn’t see the incident, but added that it doesn’t make much sense for a player complaining about a “lack of opportunities” to take himself out of practice.
Bailey, a former Seahawk, was claimed off waivers by the Jets in September, 2015 and was “thrown right into the action. So, I had to really try to pick it up on the fly,” he said. Now, he’s far more comfortable in Bowles’ system, but there’s still only so many reps to go around.
“I’m really trying to mature when it comes to things like mental reps and learning through other people so I don’t go out there and make the same mistakes that other people makes,” said Bailey, who’s behind free safeties Marcus Gilchrist and Ronald Martin on the Jets’ initial depth chart. “Because there are only a certain amount of reps, everybody can’t get every rep.”
In the meantime, he’s hoping another injury doesn’t interrupt his progress again. A former undrafted free agent out of USC in 2014, Bailey injured his ankle and was waived by the Seahawks as a rookie in August, 2014. He ended up on the Seahawks’ practice squad later that season and, in 2015, stood to be their starting strong safety because of Kam Chancellor’s holdout. But Bailey was waived to make room on the 53-man roster when Chancellor finally reported in September.
Not long after signing with the Jets, Bailey suffered another ankle injury. He played in only five games between Weeks 4-8.
“It’s extremely frustrating. My whole career in the NFL, I’ve been hurt,” said Bailey, who also added he “tore up” his hand in Seattle last September and played with a cast.
The safety knows disappointment all too well. After redshirting his freshman year at USC, he was asked to switch to linebacker before eventually moving back to safety his junior season. He then declared for the draft a year early, only to hear his name not be called.
Bailey readily admits he’s had “bad luck with injuries.” But this season, he’s focused on three simple words.
One. Full. Year.
“I came into this year, honestly, just thinking: Whatever happens this year, I just want to make it through camp. Just injury-free. Cause I haven’t done that yet,” he said. “Just try to get through Game 1 healthy, Game 2 healthy, Game 3, and then take it from there.
“… I really don’t want to look too far down the line, like, man I want to play the whole season healthy and not just take advantage of every opportunity that I’m getting by playing hesitant. I’m not that type of player. I fly around, dive around, put my body on the line. So I’ve just got to stay positive, think positive.”