FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - If there was one thing for the Jets to be concerned about coming off their wild-card win in Cincinnati, it was the appearance that running back Thomas Jones had hit a pothole and suffered a flat tire. Jones scored one touchdown, but his 15 carries amounted to only 34 yards.
That was camouflaged by the brilliant 135-yard rushing effort of rookie backup Shonn Greene, but when Jones sat out a day of practice earlier this week to rest a balky knee, it sent up red flags. There were rumblings his physical problems might be more serious than previously reported.
Questioned about his knee, Jones betrayed his agitation with the notion of an injury slowing him for one of the most important games of his career.
"I'm 100 percent,'' Jones said. "I mean, there's all these questions about surgery and all kinds of stuff. I don't know where this stuff came from.
"I banged my knee on the turf. We had about seven guys get nicked up from the turf at the Meadowlands [in the regular-season finale] because it was so cold. So it was just a bruise. It wasn't a big deal. I had a short week to nurse it.
"I was ready to play last week, but I had to wear a brace just for comfort. Other than that, I'm good to go.''
At the age of 31, Jones ran 331 times for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns, all career highs, but he insisted the Jets' ground-and-pound game hasn't beaten his body down.
"It hasn't taken any toll on me at all,'' Jones said. "I work out harder than anyone in the league. I pride myself on that.
"I watch film. I'm in the ice tub. I've been consistent because I do the same things over and over. I've been blessed to be healthy, but I take care of my body and I think everyone around here can tell you that.''
Jones said he was not put off by the fact that Greene got a career-high 21 carries last week against the Bengals. The way he sees it, the Jets are a team that wants to run the ball 40-plus times a game, especially this week, when time of possession will be the key to keeping the Chargers' dynamic passing game seated on the bench.
"There's no issues with carries,'' Jones said. "We're here to help win a Super Bowl . . . Any time you have two or three backs who can rotate and make plays, it's going to keep defenses tired. We have different running styles, so they have to adjust and it's a little harder for the defense.''
The Chargers' defense lost two nose tackles to injury and ranked 20th in the NFL against the run. Coach Norv Turner said his run defense has improved, and it's true the Chargers allowed only 105.6 yards rushing during the last 10 games compared with 137.7 in the first six.
Of course, San Diego finished on an 11-game winning streak, so opponents in catch-up mode were passing more. In fact, the gain per rush went up from 4.3 the first six games to 4.6 the last 10.
To the Jets' offensive line, not to mention Jones and Greene, the Bolts' weak run defense might look like red meat.
Asked if the Jets can manhandle this opponent, Greene said: "Oh, yeah, we feel like that every game. We feel we have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. We've got an advantage.''