Marcus Maye had completed his first practice in more than nine months, and on that hot August day, he declared that his goal was to play in all 16 games this season.
The Jets, collectively and as individuals, haven’t achieved many of their goals for 2019. Maye’s still is attainable, though, and it’s something very important to the Jets’ third-year safety.
“It’s big,” Maye said this past week. “You never want to miss any ball. We want to be out there at all times. Injuries are part of our game. So you try to do what you can to avoid those.
“Battling through injuries and making it to this point now, it’s definitely something to be thankful for.”
Maye had to overcome a lot to be one of only three Jets defensive players to start all 12 games this season. That number is expected to drop.
Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams likely is out for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with an ankle injury. The other player, nose tackle Steve McLendon, was limited in practice Thursday and Friday with hip and knee issues but is expected to play.
Maye played in only six games last season as foot, thumb and shoulder injuries kept him in the trainer’s room more than on the football field.
After suffering the shoulder injury in Week 10 last season, Maye underwent surgery, and indications were that he’d be ready for training camp. But he developed a nerve issue and started out on the physically unable to perform list.
After being cleared in late August, the free safety has been one of the Jets’ most valuable and reliable defensive players, as he was expected to be after an impressive 2017 rookie season.
“Marcus is a general back there,” linebacker Brandon Copeland said. “He’s helped us out this year making calls, huge with communication and also just being in the right place at the right time and leading guys out there on the field, especially from the back end. He’s like our eyes.
“There’s the quarterback of the defense in the middle and then there’s also that safety valve back there who’s also seeing the big picture all the time. He’s the glue.”
Maye said that in an attempt to avoid injuries, he’s been very conscious of things such as nutrition, rest and recovery.
The Florida product is fifth on the Jets with 45 tackles and is tied for second with five passes defended. Maye also has played the second-most defensive snaps on the team, 843. Adams has one more, but that should change Sunday.
“He has really done a good job of diving into this defense and knowing all the ins and outs,” coach Adam Gase said. “Marcus does a great job with what we ask him to do and I think he is one of the sharpest guys I’ve been around as far as knowing what the linebackers do, what the D-line does. He knows all the little details of the whole defense.”
Maye took a lot of pride in hearing that his coach said that about him. He credited all the coaches he’s had over the years for that, particularly Jets defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson.
This week, Maye has taken on a little more work because of the situation in the defensive backfield.
Not only is Adams expected to miss an NFL game for the first time, but slot corner Brian Poole (concussion) is out and starting cornerback Arthur Maulet (calf) and safety Matthias Farley (rib/ankle) are doubtful.
The secondary likely will feature Maye, rookie Bless Austin, Maurice Canady, whom the Jets claimed off waivers from Baltimore last month, Nate Hairston, who’s been a healthy scratch the last three weeks, and Bennett Jackson.
The Jets claimed Jackson this week from the Ravens. He was with the Jets earlier this season but never played a down.
Maye said he’s been more communicative in practice and in the film room this week to make sure everyone understands his role.
“That’s my nature,” he said. “Getting everybody on the same page, being the quarterback back there, be the engine in the outfield, be the last line of defense.
“We got younger guys out there. Guys in different spots, guys that haven’t played in games yet, so it’s a lot of new pieces. A lot of guys that have been in the building [but] haven’t necessarily been on the field. Just being the voice back there, just being a guy that everybody looks to to get everybody rounded up. It’s definitely something that I take very seriously.”
Maye acknowledged that it will be different not having Adams out there with him. The two were drafted together in 2017, Adams in the first round and Maye in the second.
“Definitely weird,” Maye said, “because it’s been the other way around with me missing time.”
Now he hopes that’s all in the past.