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Journeyman McIntyre has skills and technique to stick at linebacker

Garrett McIntyre runs a drill during training camp

Garrett McIntyre runs a drill during training camp at SUNY Cortland in Cortland, N.Y. (July 27, 2012) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

As television cameras descended upon Darrelle Revis last week, second-year linebacker Garrett McIntyre sat just a few locker stalls away in relative obscurity.

McIntyre isn't the flashy football star, the guy reporters turn to for brash sound bites or grandiose predictions. But while the rest of the NFL has yet to take notice of the linebacker, he's a trusted teammate inside the Jets' defensive meeting rooms.

"I'm OK with being the guy under the radar," said the 6-3, 255-pound McIntyre, who saw his first NFL action last season after kicking around other leagues since 2006 when he went undrafted out of Fresno State. "Those are the guys that sneak up on people and can hang around this league for a while."

This time last year, McIntyre simply was praying the Jets would keep him around. But the self-described journeyman has done more than just cement a roster spot. Because of his versatility and attention to detail, he's emerged as a dependable backup to starters Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas. And after a promising offseason, McIntyre is looking to turn heads this season -- and, of course, hit some NFL quarterbacks in the process. "Once I get in, that's when the magic happens," he said.

Though rookie defensive end Quinton Coples was tied for the NFL preseason sack lead (4½), it was McIntyre who led the team in practically every defensive category in training camp, including one-on-one and team drills. "He could be called the MVP of training camp," Thomas said.

"He might not be the fastest guy," outside linebackers coach Mike Smith said. "He's not Aaron Maybin off the edge. But he's so sound at his technique. That's why we call him 'the clinic tape.' Because he does everything that you tell him to do, perfectly."

McIntyre's a "high motor guy" who knows only "one speed -- and that's full-speed," Pace said.

He's an intelligent, relentless worker who has to be told only once, Smith said.

"You know how you can sometimes look at a guy and feel comfortable about him being on the team? Mac's one of those guys," Thomas said.

A year ago, the lockout-shortened offseason made it difficult for McIntyre to grasp Rex Ryan's defense and adapt to his role as a special-teamer. But he did what he does best: work.

At 27, McIntyre has experienced more frustration and uncertainty than many NFL players ever will, having been signed and waived by Seattle within a month in 2006, and signed and waived by Arizona and Tennessee within a two-week span that same year. After serving a suspension from the NFL for using a banned substance, he played in the Arena Football League from 2007-08 and jumped to the Canadian Football League for '09-10.

But McIntyre believes that everything -- including his circuitous route to the NFL -- happens for a reason.

"I'm the quintessential journeyman," said McIntyre, who met his wife, August, while in Canada. "I've played in more leagues than you can imagine. And I'm completely fine with that. I think that's what's made me the player I am today. Just going through that struggle, being able to adjust on the run."

Like Pace and Thomas, McIntyre can play the "Sam" and "Rush" linebacker positions -- a skill set that helps Smith "sleep better at night because you have a solid backup like him."

McIntyre, who signed as a free agent in February 2011, started three of the 13 games he played last season and recorded four tackles in his first start at outside linebacker against Tim Tebow and the Broncos.

Though he no longer sees himself as a "bubble guy" "fighting for your life every week," McIntyre won't allow himself to feel comfortable. Simply put: "You're either getting better or you're getting worse," he said.

From his actions, McIntyre's teammates can see how determined he is to make it in the NFL for the long haul.

"He obviously wants to stick," Pace said. "And I know he'll be here because he's invaluable."

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