Joe McKnight, here in 2012, had a 107-yard kickoff return...

Joe McKnight, here in 2012, had a 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in 2011, and one for 100 yards in 2012, his only TDs with the Jets. Credit: AP / Tom Gannam

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Former Jets teammates of Joe Mc Knight recalled him Friday as a popular, joke-telling prankster in the Jets locker room and all-around “very cool cat,” as cornerback Darrelle Revis put it.

But their reminiscences were darkened by the shock and sadness at the news that the former kick returner and running back had been shot and killed Thursday in New Orleans.

“It’s tragic,” center Nick Mangold said. “Joe was a great guy. It’s very disappointing. You feel sad for him, his family, the guys who played with him. It’s tough . . . Good dude. He always had a joke and made you smile.”

The man identified as the shooter, Ronald Gasser, was released overnight, Col. John Fortunato, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, said Friday. Gasser has not been charged in McKnight’s shooting death.

McKnight was a Jet from 2010-12, so only a half-dozen or so veterans played with him. But he made an impression during ups and downs as a player that never changed his demeanor.

“It’s tragic what happened to Joe,” Muhammad Wilkerson said. “I’m definitely upset and really hurt. He was a brother to me more than a teammate. I enjoyed the time when he was here and getting to know him as a person. I think it’s going to hurt his son the most and that’s what is really bothering me — knowing that a kid will have to grow up without his dad. I have my own kids and know how they make me feel. Just being around Joe, he always loved talking about his son and the time that they spent together.”

“Great guy, great personality,” kicker Nick Folk said. “He had a lot of fun. He was, I wouldn’t say sarcastic, but he joked around a lot. We had a great time in here . . . Just super sad.”

Despite McKnight’s struggles on the field, Folk said: “He never changed. He was always in an upbeat mood, had a smile on his face all the time.”

The kicker recalled some of McKnight’s battles with their special teams coach, saying: “He and Mike Westhoff sometimes didn’t see eye to eye, so it was always kind of fun.”

Linebacker David Harris said in a statement issued by the team: “It is sad and unfortunate what happened to Joe. I remember all he wanted was to be a good teammate and friend.”

Some former teammates marveled at the outpouring of reaction to McKnight’s death far beyond the Jets locker room, from his native New Orleans to the University of Southern California, where he played college ball.

“If you’re an SC player, everybody pretty much knows Joe McKnight,” said defensive end Leonard Williams, a fellow USC alumnus who played after McKnight there.

Revis said in a statement issued by the team: “Joe was a great teammate who did anything he could to help. He had such a good heart and wanted nothing more than to see everyone succeed. It’s hard to come to grips with the reality that he is no longer with us.”

Revis recalled watching McKnight recover from a difficult rookie season to make an impact in 2011, including a 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Ravens.

“It was awesome to see him excel not only as a teammate but as a friend,” Revis said. “I think this was a safe haven for him and for a lot of us, where we get to escape the outside world and do something we love. He definitely put his best foot forward when he came to work and he worked his butt off.”

Jet streams: Mangold practiced fully and appears likely to play against the Colts on Monday after missing four games with an ankle injury. “It was good to be out there,” he said. Does he expect to play? “I thought I’d play the past four weeks.” Coach Todd Bowles said he would assess how rusty Mangold is before playing him. “I feel like I can dive right back in any time,” Mangold said. “That’s why coaches are probably smarter than players.” . . . WR Brandon Marshall (foot, knee) did not practice again, but Bowles did not rule him out for Monday. WR Jalin Marshall (concussion), WR Devin Smith (illness), LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle), S Calvin Pryor (concussion) and DT Steve McLendon (hamstring) did not practice.With the AP

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