Sheldon Richardson returns to MetLife Stadium in a different place than when the Jets decided it would be better if he was any place but in their locker room.
Richardson, who the Jets picked 13th in 2013, was once considered a cornerstone on their defense. He was the Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler. But too many off-the-field issues led to the Jets to trade Richardson to Seattle last year for Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick.
Now starting at left tackle for the Vikings, Richardson seems to have taken responsibility for what ultimately led to the Jets sending him across the country.
“I did some things for me to get out of there, for them to trade me,” Richardson said. “I put it on myself. Nobody else.”
Richardson was charged with resisting arrest and multiple traffic violations after leading police on a high-speed chase in 2015. He was twice suspended by the NFL and had a well-publicized feud with ex-Jets receiver Brandon Marshall after he signed with the Giants that divided the locker room.
Richardson said he’s grown personally and professionally since then.
“It’s kind of self-inflicted wounds and just me not overcoming my personal battles in life that got me out of there and that changed everything around,” Richardson said. “That’s pretty much it and I pretty much grew from everywhere. At every phase of my life I grew from it.”
Richardson said he looks forward to seeing his old teammates and battling with the Jets offensive lineman and that there is no extra motivation.
“Another game,” Richardson said. “I don’t put myself above the team. Whatever personal vendetta I have is between me.”
The trade has worked out very well for the Jets.
Kearse has been a steady player, and a solid professional and locker room presence. The trade also enabled the Jets to get Sam Darnold. They included the second-round pick they acquired from Seattle in the package they sent to the Colts to move up to No. 3 in the draft where they selected Darnold.
Richardson is trying to re-establish himself after signing a one-year, $8-million deal with Minnesota. He has one sack and 10 quarterback hits this season.
“He’s played very well,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We’ve been really working with him on a lot of techniques we’re trying to refine him with. But he’s been a model person, model citizen, true professional with everything he’s done. We’re excited to have him and glad that we got him.
JETS WAIVE PRYOR
The Jets waived wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, and activated Deontay Burnett from the practice squad.
Pryor is dealing with a groin injury that could sideline him a few weeks. It’s possible the Jets will bring Pryor back when he’s healthy.
He caught touchdown passes in the past two games as he became a red zone target for Sam Darnold. Two of Darnold’s three TD passes in the red zone have been to Pryor.
The Jets are shorthanded at wide receiver. Quincy Enunwa, who has a high ankle sprain, has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Vikings. Enunwa will miss a few weeks.
Burnett, a rookie free agent, was Darnold’s favorite target at USC.
Pryor reaggravated a groin issue in last week’s win over the Colts and didn’t practice this week. On the season, Pryor has caught 14 passes for 235 yards.
Jets' record against the Vikings. They last met on Dec. 7, 2014, a 30-24 Vikings OT victory.
THE X-FACTOR: Parry Nickerson
It’s a tough assignment for the rookie cornerback. After playing 110 snaps the last two weeks with Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine banged up, Nickerson should have another busy — and difficult — day. This time, the nickelback will try to cover Adam Thielen in the slot. Thielen leads the NFL in catches (58) and yards (712). “He’ll be ready to play,” Todd Bowles said. “Maybe not of Thielen’s character, but he’s going to face those kind of guys every week. He just has to carry out his assignment.”
The Jets have rushed for more than 100 yards in all three of their wins, but they’re still looking for consistency in their run game.
Darnold said the Jets’ offensive identity is setting up the pass with the run. Last week, they totaled 107 yards against Indianapolis, but they averaged less than three yards on their 36 carries
Since the Jets are shorthanded at receiver and in the secondary, they could look for another high-volume rushing game to control the clock and keep the ball away from the Vikings’ top-five passing attack.
It could be a lot of Bilal Powell if Isaiah Crowell is limited. He barely practiced this week with a foot problem and is questionable. But Minnesota is the ninth-best defense against the run, allowing 92.8 yards per game.
PUNCH IT IN
Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said “a big focal point” this week was working on the red-zone offense.
The Jets rank last, scoring touchdowns on 30 percent of their red-zone trips. Darnold has thrown just three touchdowns in the red zone – two to big receiver Terrelle Pryor and one to tight end Jordan Leggett.
Since Pryor, who has a groin injury that will sideline him a few weeks, is expected to be waived, the Jets could rely more on their four tight ends if they get in the red zone. Rookie tight end Chris Herndon, Darnold’s roommate during training camp, has been more involved in the passing game lately. He caught his first touchdown pass last week, from 32-yards out.
“We can't settle for field goals, we need seven points,” Bates said. “Everything happens a little faster in the red zone. It's a tighter field, the safeties and corners don't have to cover as much space. We just have to be more precise in our execution.
“I've got to call a better game in the red zone, and we've just got to continue to work. The run game is always harder, because the boxes are much smaller. They don't have to cover as much ground. We are just going to continue to keep working and learning from last week. We've got to get seven.”
The Jets special teams will be getting at least one key player back.
Gunner Charone Peake is set to return from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the last three games. Peake also could line up at wide receiver, as well as returner Andre Roberts, with all the injuries the Jets have there.
Special teams coach Brant Boyer was hoping linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, who blocked a punt in Cleveland in Week 3, would be back after a one-game absence. But he is doubtful with a foot injury.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
15: Jets’ takeaways — five fewer than they had all of last season.
10: Jets’ interceptions — one less than they had all of last season