New York Jets rookie Joe McKnight stretches during rookie football...

New York Jets rookie Joe McKnight stretches during rookie football mini-camp. (April 30, 2010) Credit: AP

Joe McKnight has been under the radar for the most part since the preseason finale against the Eagles exactly four weeks ago today.

Once Rex Ryan made it clear he wasn't able to trust the rookie running back because he kept putting the ball on the ground, mentioning how the fourth-round pick wasn't going to be active, McKnight's name has barely come up.

McKnight, who's become mostly known for vomiting twice on the field during rookie minicamp because of conditioning issues and for the coaches blasting him on HBO's Hard Knocks," has been a disappointment to this point. He lost a fumble in each of the Jets' final three preseason games and looked scared and tentative when trying to run in between the tackles.

He hasn't suited up through the Jets' first three games of the season, failing to crack the active 45-man roster. But he insists that hasn't been his main focus at the moment.

"I’m really not worrying about that," McKnight told me after practice. "I’m just coming out, practicing hard and trying to give the defense and offense a good look because I’m on scout team defense and scout team offense. So I’m just trying to give everybody a look, and when my time comes, I’m going to be ready. I’ve just got to make sure I’m ready."

His time may be coming quicker than he thinks.

Ryan praised McKnight during practice today and revealed there's a possibility the USC product may be active for the first time when the Jets take on the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.

Thoughts of McKnight by outside observers started surfacing earlier in the week, after highlight-reel type performances turned in by Leon Washington and Danny Woodhead. That paired with the Rams plucking Chauncey Washington off the Jets' practice squad Tuesday made some wonder if McKnight was really worth it.

"I think he’s a talent," Ryan said. "He’s got kind of ability. Obviously, I never trusted him to make him active initially because of the fumbling. But as far as talent, I think he’s got more talent than a lot of guys we’ve already talked about. It’s just a matter of him doing it."

Ryan added: "He looks a lot better. In fact today I signaled out Joe and Matt Kroul. So Joe McKnight and Matt Kroul are doing an incredible job on scout team for us. So he’s really coming. There’s no doubt he’s coming. He may be active this week."

That would be perfectly fine with McKnight, who believes he's almost where he feels he should be at this point.

"I’m ready for it," he said. "I’m looking forward to it. Every day I wake up looking forward to going out and playing a game, my first game. But I can’t handle that. I only can handle what I can handle, and that’s going out there and practicing hard for the coaches, and doing everything right, and just being accountable for my actions."

McKnight added: "I feel like I’m close to being ready because I feel a lot more comfortable than what I did before. It’s all about being comfortable in the setting you are in. So right now I feel real comfortable. I mean, I’m loving it right now."

What makes him more comfortable?

"Just everything in general -- the offense, just being around the environment and just having the feel for the game, because you are trying to get a feel for the game," he said. "Once you know I figured it out, I’ve just got to take my time and keep working hard and being patient for my time to come."

But don't think McKnight will have felt as if he's finally arrived if he does indeed get activated this week. He thinks he has a lot of things to improve on in virtually every aspect of his game. 

"I feel like I’m nowhere near close to where I want to get to right now," he said. "So I’m just going to say everything – running between the tackles. It's easy saying it, but if you go out there and do it and just put your mind to it, it can be done."

Shonn Greene and LaDainain Tomlinson have constantly been in McKnight's ear, telling him that, yes, it can be done. They've given the 22-year-old from River Ridge, La. tons of much-needed advice since the preseason's completion.

"They are always talking to me," McKnight said. "'Keep my pads down low. When you make contact, don’t stop your feet. Keep running hard. When you are going through traffic, put two hands on the ball.' Stuff like that.

"They always help me out with other stuff, too. L.T. will tell me, 'Just look at the defense and that’ll tell you where to run on break. Check the front and then look at the secondary.' They’ve helped me out a lot, so I’m just taking it all in and basically just waiting my time." 

A time that might finally arrive just after 1 p.m. Sunday.

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