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Jets safety Marcus Maye nears goal of playing in all 16 games

The Jets' Marcus Maye  breaks up a

The Jets' Marcus Maye  breaks up a pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter against the Steelers' James Washington  at MetLife Stadium  last Sunday.  Credit: Jim McIsaac

It’s not a Christmas miracle but it’s special and significant nonetheless for Marcus Maye.

The Jets safety’s personal goal of playing all 16 games is close to reaching fruition.

The team has been decimated by injuries, but Maye has been one of the few constants for Adam Gase’s group.

Maye played just six games last year and went to IR with a shoulder injury that required surgery. There were times it appeared he may not be back for the start of this season after developing a nerve issue.

But Maye did extra rehab, worked harder to make sure he was in the Jets’ defensive backfield on opening day, and he’s rarely come off the field since. Maye has played a team-leading 1,031 defensive snaps – or 98.9 percent of the defense’s plays

“It was definitely a lot of ups and downs,” Maye said. “Trying to get back out, the long offseason with the rehab and the treatments, it’s definitely something that isn’t easy to go through. But you have a goal and it takes each day to reach that goal and that was to start the season healthy, start the season strong and to finish strong.

“To get to this point now, to look back at everything I’ve been through, it’s definitely a heartwarming feeling to be at this point now.”

Maye’s talent was undeniable after the Jets took him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Florida. But his durability became a question.

He suffered an ankle injury in the last game of his rookie year, and it affected him for much of that off-season. Maye wasn’t able to fully take part in OTAs and mini-camp heading into his second season. Last year, he also had ankle and thumb injuries before suffering the season-ending shoulder problem.

If all goes well for Maye in the Jets’ season finale Sunday in Buffalo, this will be the first time he would go into an offseason able to work on improving his game instead of just getting his body healthy enough to step on the field.

“It’d be definitely big,” Maye said. “A lot of it has been sitting and watching in the training room, a lot of mental reps. Hopefully (I can) finish the year strong, go into the offseason healthy so I can actually work on my game, work on everything I need to work on, sit back and watch everything I need to work on from this year and attack it full speed.

“It definitely will be something good for me since I haven’t been able to have two full offseason where I can fully get after it.”

Maye has established himself as one of the Jets' top players. They drafted him and Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams in the same class. If the two can stay healthy, the Jets seem set at safety for years to come.

Adams said he and Maye talked throughout last offseason about playing every game together this season. Adams, who never missed a game before this year, was the one who sat out twice with an ankle injury.

They were both on the field together last weekend against the Steelers and Maye was the star. He had an interception in the end zone in the first half and pass break-up in final seconds of a 16-10 Jets’ win.

“I’m happy for him,” Adams said. “What he’s doing on the field does not shock me. It shocks a lot of people outside because they don’t really watch him and understand who he is a person and player.

“He’s a tremendous football player. It’s for people to start to realize that he should be in that high category. He should be talked about in that sense of being one of the best safeties in the league. At the end of the day he’s going to keep his head down. That’s the person that he is. He might not say much, but I can definitely tell you that his confidence and hard work pays off.”

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