Joe McKnight’s bottom lip quivered as he tried to tamp down the anger bubbling beneath the surface.
Since his fourth-round selection four years ago, the former USC running back has watched his play time and his production dwindle. And over the years, the quick-footed back who seemed to have limitless potential out of college, has been featured more so as a kick returner – and even briefly at cornerback.
The offseason arrivals of Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson have further crowded the Jets backfield, but McKnight won’t tolerate insinuations that he’s on shaky ground. Ticked off by one reporter’s inquiries about Ivory & Co. possibly taking his spot, McKnight fired back: “Until they do that, I’m still here.”
As he got dressed, McKnight's continued to talk loud enough for reporters to hear.
"Like I said, ‘I don’t give a f--- who they bring in here, man. Ain’t nobody going to take my s--- man.’ They say, ‘Oh, listen Ivory’s here’ -- I’m like, ‘Listen muthaf-----, I’m still here.’ They f------- crazy.”
When approached several minutes later for clarification, McKnight insisted his frustration was targeted at the assumption he's as good as gone – not his new teammates.
“I don’t seem upset. But if somebody’s going to tell me I’m not going to be here, that’s going to piss me off. Like I said, I don’t care who they bring in, they’re going to have to kill me to take my spot. So, whoever they bring in – I don’t care.
"I’m not angry. I’m not angry at all. I’m just tired of people just running their mouth and talking about how I’m not going to be here. I’m just going to be prove to them that I’m going to be here.”
While McKnight wasn’t a big factor in Tony Sparano’s ground-and-pound attack, he said he’s looking forward to playing in Marty Mornhingweg’s West Coast System – one that McKnight feels suits his skill-set.
“I like Coach Mornhinweg," he said. "It’s a new offense and it’s based on your playmaking ability: what you’re going to do on the field and to get open and to make the plays. So it’s fun,” he said, adding that the new system suits him “a lot” because of the motions to the slot and wide receiver spots. He also noted the Jets will misdirection plays "a lot" more.
“All four of us are going to have our own package, and sometimes we might be on the field together so you just never know,” said McKnight, who added that he even has some Wildcat plays in his package.
When pressed further about his role and whether he thinks the Jets have plans for specific RB packages, McKnight replied with a slight edge: “I don't think -- I know.”
As for Ivory, the former Saints running back said the Jets didn’t tell him that he’ll be the lead guy. But after years of being stuck in a crowded backfield down in New Orleans, he’s anxious to prove he can play.
“More carries will allow me to show my full potential,” he said, adding that he still needs more time to fully digest the playbook.
Ivory believes the biggest knock on him is that he can’t catch passes out of the backfield – an assertion, he said, is unfounded.
“People say I can’t catch. But how many of these people have seen me catch a pass out of the backfield. I probably received a pass out of the backfield two of three times. And all of those times I caught the ball – but yet, they say I can’t catch.”