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Jets to play musical chairs at tight end, fullback

Dustin Keller carries the ball past the Buffalo

Dustin Keller carries the ball past the Buffalo Bills' Bryan Scott after making a reception at MetLife Stadium. (Sept. 9, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- John Conner is the only fullback on the Jets' roster, but the Jets have a contingency plan if a knee injury prevents him from playing, as expected Sunday in Miami. They borrow a tight end and plug him into the backfield.

Just one problem. Starting tight end Dustin Keller might miss the game with a right hamstring injury. In that case, Jeff Cumberland starts in Keller's spot, third-string tight end Konrad Reuland replaces Conner at fullback and Dedrick Epps goes from the practice squad to backup tight end. It's a game of musical chairs that might limit the Jets' offensive options.

Reuland, who was signed three weeks ago, stepped in at fullback last week in Pittsburgh when Conner had a problem with the right knee he injured in the opener against Buffalo. Coach Rex Ryan is pleased with the new man.

"He has fullback reps, tight end reps, [reps] as the [second] tight end, so, he's learned our system and he's done it quick," Ryan said after Friday's practice. The coach omitted the H-back spot, which Reuland also knows. "It's a good thing he has that Stanford education because he's had to use it these last couple of weeks," Ryan said.

Officially, Conner is listed as doubtful for the Miami game, while Keller is listed as questionable. Ryan said he'd be surprised if Conner plays but he's holding out hope for Keller, who will be re-evaluated Saturday.

"It's a precautionary thing," Conner said. "I think they're going to keep me off this week so I'm not having a recurring thing every week where I'm having a setback. They'll let it heal as much as possible so I'll be ready next week.

"Konrad is doing a great job playing the H-back role and being versatile. His head's spinning now because he also has to play tight end."

Cumberland and Reuland took all the practice reps this week. "It's an opportunity," Cumberland said. "When the game comes, I'm not surprised if [Keller's] not out there because that's the way it's been through practice."

As for the impact on the offense, Reuland said, "I don't think it affects the offense as a whole. Everybody else is doing the exact same thing. It's on us to make sure we know our assignments and are able to execute."

Oh, and Cumberland and Reuland must be careful not to get hurt during the game. "Stay healthy," Reuland said with a laugh. "That's for sure. These are valuable opportunities for Jeff and I."

Notes & quotes: LaRon Landry said he plans to appeal his $15,750 fine by the NFL for a horse-collar penalty against the Steelers . . . LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring) is doubtful and likely will be replaced by Garrett McIntyre; reserve CB Ellis Lankster (lower back) is questionable but expects to play, and CB Darrelle Revis (concussion) is a probable starter.

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