The worst thing that can happen to many accomplished athletes is to be forced out of the game they love by injury rather than exiting on their own terms. Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins said Friday that's what was behind his recent announcement that he plans to make another comeback at age 31 after injuring his left knee and undergoing reconstructive surgery for the second straight season.
Asked about the idea of going out on his terms, Jenkins said, "It's huge. The amount of adversity I've been in throughout the course of my life has been tremendous. I don't want to cap it off with more adversity. I want to cap it off in a way I can at least look back and smile upon it.
"I've taken a lot of time to become the man I am. I want to celebrate that as I leave this game. For some players, 'Pass the money, pass the glory, pass everything.' That's what football has been for us. It's been our ticket out of the environment in which we grew up. It's also been an opportunity to learn how to be a man and take care of our business. Football has given me so much that I just want to be able to walk away from it in a way that's going to put the icing on the cake."
At the same time, the chance to be a part of coach Rex Ryan's Jets is a major factor as well. Jenkins had to miss the run to the AFC championship game last season. After going down in the opener against Baltimore, he now will have to miss a season that is off to an excellent 4-1 start with many projecting the "Hard Knocks" Jets to be in Super Bowl contention.
"Absolutely," Jenkins said. "Everything factors in. If Rex wasn't my coach, that would probably be a consideration, and the teammates I have. It's a fun locker room. I know it's been under a lot of scrutiny in the past couple of weeks, but you have to understand we have a great group of guys. We mesh well, and everything goes good in here.
"When you hear a lot of guys say that, once they retire, you miss the locker room and the guys, it's absolutley true. One of the things I go through now -- because I have my high moments and my lows -- is just missing the locker room and the players and being a part of everything."
Although it's common practice to use ligament tissue from cadavers to replace that which was destroyed by the injury, Jenkins once again eschewed that option. Instead, he used a graft from his own patella tendon and hamstrings. Jenkins said he has been in rehab since a few days after surgery and is working out at the Jets' Florham Park complex.
He explained he has been hiding from the media, in part, to hide his emotions from the cameras and from his teammates in the locker room. "I was going through some sensitive moments," the 10-year veteran said with a smile. "This isn't 'Dancing with the Stars.' You can show your sensitive side on that. This is the locker room. I'm not showing my sensitive side in here."
Somehow, his teammates are likely to understand how much heart it takes for the big man to attempt another comeback so he can get back on the field next season. There's no timeteable as far as returning for minicamp or training camp or the start of the season.
"I'm not going to say it as a certainty," Jenkins said. "I don't know how everything factors in with my age. I'm going to do everything the right way."